With a smooth shooting stroke and a frail frame, Jeremy Lamb has never been one to confuse his strengths and weaknesses on a basketball court.
He’s a gifted scorer with a natural feel for the offensive end. But defense? That’s a different story.
“At first,” Lamb admitted of his initial NBA days, “I didn’t care about defense at all.”
In Year 2, Lamb showed a ton of promise. Starting the season in the rotation, he burst through as a reliable bench scorer. At the All-Star break, he was averaging double-figures in 22 minutes per night.
But as his offense slumped late in the year, his playing time diminished. No longer shooting at an efficient enough rate, Thunder coach Scott Brooks couldn’t justify leaving his defense on the court.
The positives on one end no longer outweighed the negatives on the other. Lamb was forced to sit back and watch. And as he did, the 22-year-old started to realize how important it is to be a two-way player.
“Seeing these players that lock you up, then go score on you, that motivates me,” Lamb said, identifying Russell Westbrook as a guy whose defense taught him a ton.
“People really be scared to handle against him,” Lamb said of Westbrook. “Or scared to make a soft pass. They’re always looking over their shoulder, seeing where he’s at. That’s aggravating to the players that he plays against. He’s one of the players that really inspired me to play both ways.”
So Lamb has vowed to come back a better defender. To work out this offseason with an eye on improving his on-ball defense. To get stronger and sturdier.
“I think that’s the biggest thing,” Lamb said of individual defense. “Playing one-on-one, you really help your defense; helping keeping people in front of you.”