D-League: Lamb Making The Most Of His Time
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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The Oklahoma City Thunder has high aspirations for rookie shooting guard Jeremy Lamb. Lamb, a lottery selection in the 2012 NBA Draft and a key piece in the package they received in exchange for James Harden, has a tremendous amount of upside, but there currently isn’t much playing time available for him. So, the team sent him to the Tulsa 66ers, their D-League affiliate, to get some extensive in-game work in.
“It means a lot,” Lamb said of his time in the D-League to HOOPSWORLD. “ I met some new guys, being able to play with them, work on the stuff that I’ve been working on in OKC, being able to play and get some minutes and do it on the court has been good.
“When I first got down here it’s always tough to meet new people. Daniel [Orton] was here. I was able to talk to him about, he introduced me to people. Everyone was real welcoming. DeAndre Liggins, I could talk to him. Now the whole team is like a little family, having fun playing games, working hard together. It’s good having some people that you already know in a new environment with you.”
Just two months into his first regular season, Lamb has seen just how crazy life as a NBA player can be. All indications from Houston were that he was their starting shooting guard of the future. But, that all changed when Harden became available. In desperate need of a number one option, Houston gave up Lamb along with three draft picks and Kevin Martin to get the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. That was the first really shocking moment of his career, but getting sent to the D-League afterwards was something he knew was a possibility.
“When I first got traded, that caught me by surprise,” Lamb said. “But being sent to the D-League, trying to get a spot, going through tough times is not surprising to me. I’ve been through tough times in basketball, this is another tough time. I’m just really trying to work. I always say ‘hard work pays off.’ I’m just going to keep working, I think it will all work itself out.”
Lamb’s attitude towards hard work fits in perfectly with the Thunder’s approach. In his short time with the team, Lamb has seen just how dedicated everyone is.
“Everyone here has a winning attitude and is held to a high standard,” Lamb said. “Very high professionalism. It’s a very good organization. Houston was also a good organization, got me off on the right foot, but I got traded and now OKC they do the same. It’s very, very good people in the organization, good coaches, good players, good training staff. Everything is very professional.
“Everybody gets in their individual work. Everyone puts in extra work. Kevin Durant is there, the first one to practice every day as well as Russell Westbrook. They make sure they get their work in before practice. Serge [Ibaka], Kendrick [Perkins] make sure to get their work in. Perk always gets in extra lifts. I could go down the whole roster and say where they put their work in. From top to bottom everyone looks to work. Everyone is doing their job. It’s a great group and team to be around.”
Lamb’s teammates in OKC would be proud of the work his doing in Tulsa as he is averaging 26 points, six rebounds and two assists in three contests. His teammates on the 66ers have done a good job of making life easy for him.
“[There’s] no pressure,” Lamb said. “I’ve just been trying to be aggressive, play my game and have some fun. There hasn’t been pressure. My teammates have really been looking for me. They’ve really been supporting me while I’m here. I wouldn’t say there’s pressure, it’s a good learning experience for me.”
While Lamb, like all rookies, would like to be playing a featured role in the NBA and competing with Portland’s Damian Lillard and New Orlean’s Anthony Davis for Rookie of the Year honors, he’s really being put in a position to succeed by the Thunder. When his chance to play for them comes, he’ll be ready, thanks to the time and effort he’s putting in with the 66ers.
Up Close With Mike Singletary: Rio Grande Valley Vipers forward Mike Singletary has been a fixture in Texas basketball for the last decade. He was one of the most high school players in the state at Kingwood High School from 2003-2007. He went on to have a very productive career at Texas Tech and now he is now leading the Vipers with 18 points a game. HOOPSWORLD caught up with him to talk about the fit with the Vipers, playing with NBA assignee Scott Machado and more in this video interview.
The D-League’s Direction: The 2012-13 season for the NBA Development League is off to a terrific start both on and off the court. NBA teams are using their affiliates more and more and interest in the league is increasing rapidly. HOOPSWORLD spoke to Dan Reed, the president of the D-League, recently about their great start and what’s next for the growing league.
“We’ve seen a real maturation of our development system and affiliation system,” Reed said to HOOPSWORLD. “There’s over 25 percent of the 2012 draft class has already been sent to play in the development league and that will continue to grow. If you look historically over a third of all draft picks since 2005 have played in the NBA D-League. We expect we’ll beat that this year. That’s been really exciting I think for a couple of reasons. I think the new Collective Bargaining Agreement rules allow for more flexibility. All NBA players can be assigned, players in their first three years can be assigned an unlimited amount of times. I think you’re seeing the result of that here. More NBA teams now manage their own D-League teams. 11 of our 16 teams now are managed by a NBA team, they’re totally bought in and really using the system the way it was meant to be. You’re going to see this a lot more moving forward.
“We’re going to continue to see NBA teams buy into the development league. There’s several teams interested in purchasing their own team or entering into a hybrid model with an existing team. You’re going to see that continue to grow, you’re going to see more assignments, which will result in more nba players with D-League experience. I expect at the end of this year 30 percent of NBA players will have experience playing in our league, which is a little bit of a milestone for us. I think you’re going to see us continue to promote the league as having the top prospects playing in our league, make sure that Rockets fans can see Scott Machado play here and they understand how his development is progressing, and do that with all NBA team’s players as well as top prospects that are essentially free agents like a Jeff Adrien (editor’s note: Adrien was called up by the Charlotte Bobcats shortly after this interview) for example. Making sure fans understand that this is the place to go to see the best basketball in the world outside of the NBA, and see future NBA impact players, future Jeremy Lins if you will, before they hit the big time.”
This season D-League basketball became easier to watch than it ever has been. The league formed a partnership with YouTube that features over 350 of their games lived and viewable afterwards on demand. Select games are also airing on CBS Sports Network and NBA TV, but the league is really embracing being available digitally.
“We have our YouTube deal, which we’re thrilled about,” Reed said. “Fans are too. Our views are up 300% from where they were last year. You also have 20 games on CBS Sports Network, where those games will be live and nationally televised, 40 more games on NBA TV. If you look at our media strategy going forward, it will continue to be a combination of games on nationally, well-distributed television and also digital. We think that’s the area of the future. That’s where people are increasingly watching games and digital distributors are interested in live content, so we think that’s a great opportunity for us to expose how great these players are and educate NBA fans on why they should follow our league.”
While the D-League’s primary goal is to send players to the NBA or give current NBA players the opportunity to play more than they would on their respective teams, the league has actually produced more NBA employees outside of just players – a trend that will undoubtedly continue.
“It’s very interesting,” Reed said. “You look at the Vipers alone, they’ve produced an NBA assistant coach in Chris Finch who is now a prominent assistant with the Rockets. If you talk to Darryl Morey with the Rockets, the offense they’re running in Houston now is based on experimentation they did here with the Vipers two years ago. They really view this as a true laboratory for what they do. And officials, more than half came out of the NBA development league. We see more and more officials called up every day, we also test rules, test equipment, testing the internationally goal tending rule for example. Really, we have a long list of things where we are the research and development department for the NBA in every respect.”
Click here to go the NBA D-League’s official site, where you can get all of the information on the league’s history, watch previous games, and look to see who is on the verge of receiving a call up from the NBA!