There's a saying in NBA circles.
It's one that begins to circulate during this time of the year.
It's a multipurpose expression, one that essentially eliminates excitement when players perform well as well as couches criticisms when they don't.
“It's summer league.”
No matter what happens in the 2013 Orlando Pro Summer League, a five-game slate of games which the Thunder opens Sunday, that's the phrase coaches, and even players, will regurgitate all week.
But it'll be hard to contain excitement or disappointment for Jeremy Lamb.
Most will be watching the second-year shooting guard with a keen eye. He was one of the five assets the Thunder received in the trade that sent James Harden to Houston. And with Kevin Martin set to sign with Minnesota, Lamb is expected to now be a larger part of the team's plans this season.
Is he ready?
Summer league will provide our first indication.
It will be Lamb's first summer with the Thunder. He competed with the Rockets' summer league team last year.
Following the preseason trade, Lamb appeared in only 23 games with the Thunder as a rookie, mostly mop-up minutes. He averaged 3.1 points, 0.8 rebounds and 0.2 assists in 6.4 minutes. Many could see Lamb's perimeter shooting ability, but the sparse minutes led to questions about how good he really is and whether he was worth trading Harden.
“I think he can definitely help us in the future,” Thunder forward Nick Collison said of Lamb in May. “Outsiders, they see a guy not playing and they think he can't play. That's not necessarily the case when you come onto a team that's kind of got a rotation set. We saw that with Reggie (Jackson). He was in the D-League last year. Now, he's playing really good in the playoffs. People just have to have more patience.”
Lamb lit up the D-League last year. He averaged 21 points, 5.3 rebounds, three assists and 1.2 steals in 32.8 minutes. While shooting 49 percent from the field and 35.2 percent on 3-pointers, Lamb was proving he belonged in the NBA.
“It was fun,” Lamb said of his 25-game D-League stint. “It made me better.”
The point of summer league, at least for the Thunder, is to see how much better players like Lamb have become. Rather than judge players off their performances and make decisions based on this week, the Thunder has instead used summer league to evaluate where players are at the moment. It's simply six days to see in which areas a player has grown and which areas need more developing.
Lamb, despite his projected increased role, will be no different.
His shooting ability is a known commodity. So this week will be a chance to check out Lamb's consistency, how much more he's learned to defend, drive and create his own shot.
Lamb, like the others, is expected to have his ups and downs.
But you can bet the Thunder won't overreact one way or another.
It's summer league.