RENO, Nev. — Things change.
Jeremy Lamb knows that as well as anybody.
He was the 12th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Rockets and was supposed to be a key part of a young nucleus for the future. Then on Oct. 27, Lamb was traded to the Thunder as part of the deal that sent James Harden to Houston.
Now 2 1/2 months into his rookie season, Lamb’s destination changes from day to day as he’s played 13 games with OKC and 11 as an assigned player with the NBA D-League Tulsa 66ers.
On Thursday, Lamb wrapped up his two-game stint at the D-League Showcase by hitting 11-for-19 shots to score 33 points and also had eight rebounds and three assists.
“I hit some shots and that always feels good,” said Lamb. “But the main idea is to get reps and try to stay sharp in case they need me at OKC.”
At just 20 years old, Lamb knew there was plenty he had to learn at the pro level, but figured he’d be doing it exclusively alongside Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder this season.
“I’ll admit that I wasn’t really happy when they first came and told me that they wanted me to play in the D-League,” he said. “I mean, you come out of college and get drafted and the thrill and the expectation is that you’re in the NBA.
“You’re hearing what they’re saying when they tell you about the D-League and how it can help. Still it’s pretty hard not to feel like you’ve been demoted. But once I got to Tulsa and got play a few games and get plenty of minutes, I could understand the value and it’s made a lot of sense.”
Lamb has shuttled back and forth between OKC and Tulsa regularly, averaging more than 35 minutes a game with the 66ers, while getting just a token few runs with the Thunder.
His most significant contribution came on Dec. 19 when Thunder coach Scott Brooks called on Lamb to replace Durant late in the first quarter of a game against the Hawks. He not only hit two-of-three shots and scored five points in five minutes, but also didn’t allow Josh Smith to score, despite giving up size on a steady diet of post-up plays.
While Lamb is averaging 21.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in the D-League, he’s got the most work to do at the defensive end.
“I’ve got to learn to be more consistent on defense,” he said. “You can’t take a possession off. You can’t lose your focus at any time. Those are things that I definitely work on in practice when I’m in OKC, but’s game situations that really test your concentration. The idea is to make the most of these games in the D-League and to get myself to a point where if something happens in OKC and I’m needed, I’m ready to step in.”
As Lamb knows, things change quickly.