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Can Thunder Rookies Lamb and Jones Play?
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On January 8, 2013 @ 3:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
There was a lot of positive spin put on the Oklahoma City Thunders’ acquisition of Perry Jones III at #28 in this year’s draft and the Houston Rockets trade that brought lottery pick Jeremy Lamb to the team meant Oklahoma City had two high profile rookies on the roster for the current season. However, lost in the excitement of being a first-round pick in the draft was the fact that these two inexperienced kids would have to compete for minutes with proven veterans on a championship caliber team. It was never going to be easy for Jones and Lamb.
“It’s hard, the tough thing about this team is it’s tough to get minutes,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. “There are no scholarships here, you have to earn every minute and the guy in front of you, there might be two guys in front of you who are really good and they’re really young. It’s tough to break in and get minutes from Russell [Westbrook], Kevin [Durant], Serge [Ibaka] and Thabo [Sefolosha], but they have to keep waiting for their opportunity. In this league, if you don’t prepare yourself for that opportunity, when you get it, you’re not going to have success and you are probably not going to get another opportunity. But our guys always work and we believe in developing our players, developing them everyday regardless of if you’re in the rotation or not.”
With minutes in scarce supply, Brooks has been forced to monitor the development of his rookies as they play with Tulsa in the NBA Development League, but being in the D-League hasn’t meant they have been forgotten. The strength of the Thunder lineup permits them to use Tulsa the way the D-League was intended. The Thunder can give Lamb and Jones playing time in Tulsa and they are expected to develop their skills there.
“[Tulsa] lost their last two games at home, I look at it all the time,” Brooks said. “Every game I try to watch and if I don’t watch it, I’ll follow the box scores and talk to their coaches. It’s part of our development [program]. We use that as our system of development when they’re not with us. I expect them to continue to get better and work on their game. Jeremy [Lamb], Perry [Jones III] and Daniel Orton are all working down there and they’re going to continue to improve. We’ll see what happens as the rest of the season goes.
“[Lamb] is a guy that we have high hopes for. He’s a worker, he’s going to get better and he’s athletic. We’re excited with what he will become eventually, but he has some work to do and he hasn’t got a lot of opportunities this year and probably won’t get a lot. But there are always opportunities to do a few minutes here and there. He did five minutes in Atlanta, scored five points, played well and was a big part of that win. He’s a guy that will have to get better and he will get better.”
Even though the rookies have barely seen the court with the Thunder, they are leaving a good impression on their veteran teammates. The young men are doing the right things to give themselves a chance if and when opportunity knocks.
“They both have unbelievable talent and the sky is the limit,” Kendrick Perkins said. “I just see that they are working hard and starting to bring it every night, going down to the D-League and taking advantage of playing. I know that it is difficult coming here and wanting to play, but they have to understand what kind of a team they are on and that it will just take time. We are a contending team, a team that plays well and is winning games, so they just have to be ready when their number is called. I am impressed with their work ethic. I am impressed that they go down to the D-League as professionals.”
“They come in everyday early and stay late trying to work on their game and stay ready. They never know when coach is going to call on them,” Russell Westbrook said. “We’re just coming off the NBA Finals and we have the same group of guys back. So it’s tough, especially Jeremy [Lamb] getting traded to the team, he never knew he was going to be here. Perry [Jones III] got drafted by us and is ready to go. I think the guys are ready whenever the opportunity knocks.”
Lamb and Jones can look at the example of Reggie Jackson for encouragement. Jackson was a rookie last year and has even played three games in the D-League this season, but Jackson worked on his game and stayed ready. When Brooks started giving him regular minutes in December, Jackson claimed a spot in the rotation.
“I just try to come in and be the first guy in and the last guy out, do all my drill work and just get better. The rest will take care of itself,” Jackson said. “[It is] tremendously hard. You just try to come in and compete every day, especially on a team like this.”
By this time Lamb and Jones should be under no delusions that it will be easy to get playing time with the Thunder this season, but they should also have noticed the team hasn’t abandoned or ignored them either. All the rookies have to do is continue to work on their game, stay ready and take advantage of any opportunities that come their way. Lamb and Jones can play, they will just have a much tougher time than most rookies trying to prove it in Oklahoma City.
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