Two preseason games is far too early to draw any sweeping conclusions about anything NBA related. But it might be enough to start to raise some concern in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder need a sixth man who can come in off the bench and light it up. That was the Kevin Martin role (and before him James Harden’s role), now the Thunder are looking for someone to step up as a third scoring option. They need that role filled if they are going to return to the Finals as they intend (and they need him to be a second scoring option until Russell Westbrook returns).
Jeremy Lamb was supposed to be that guy (along with Reggie Jackson).
So far Lamb is more a reason for concern. He got his shots Tuesday — he played 25 minutes against the Pacers and got 11 shots off from outside the paint, hitting just one of them and going 0-of-8 from three. In the Thunder’s first preseason game against Istanbul he was 2-of-6 on jumpers and 1-of-4 from three.
What may be most concerning is this continues a trend. At Summer League in Las Vegas Lamb shot 39.1 percent overall and 27.3 percent from three. Last season Lamb shot chart was not pretty (unless you love the color red).
Scott Brooks is doing the right thing in trying to pump up Lamb publicly, as he did to the Oklahoman.
“Jeremy hasn’t shot the ball well,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But I believe in what he does. He continues to work on his game. Like all of our players, we’re focusing on defense. But the shots will eventually fall for him. He works extremely hard on his game. He has missed some shots that he’s going to continue to get. They’re going to be open looks and he’s going to be able to step up and stick them in. I believe in that. I think our guys do.”
Lamb is going to get those looks and opponents will encourage him to take them until he makes them pay. It’s a cycle — he has a tendency to fall in love with that shot and not attack, and as long as he’s not hitting teams will give him the jumper and try to cut off driving lanes.
He shot a more respectable 35 percent from three in the D-League last season. He can do it. And to reiterate — it is FAR to early to say how this story is going to end.
But if Thunder fans are a little concerned, you can understand why.
Jusuf Nurkic did not enjoy his time as a member of the Denver Nuggets. His trade to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Mason Plumlee was a welcome change of scenery.
On Tuesday night, Nurkic got to take on his old team with huge playoff implications at stake. Portland beat the Nuggets, 122-113, moving a game ahead of their rivals in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and giving them the best tiebreaker between the two.
Nurkic was impressive, blasting his old squad with 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting, adding 16 rebounds, three blocks, and two assists.
Nurkic was interviewed in the arena after the game, and he was obviously happy he helped his team while also sticking it to Denver. Speaking with Portland reporter Brooke Olzendam, Nurkic took one last shot at the Nuggets, telling them to enjoy their summer.
Nurkic quite possibly sent the Nuggets packing for the year with the game at the Moda Center on Tuesday, so he might have been the guy who helped start their summer.
Still, that is ice cold.
Miami Heat forward James Johnson is one of the NBA’s best in-game dunkers. On Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons, he yammed down a huge one-handed slam that embarrassed Marcus Morris and drew gasps from the crowd at the Palace.
The play came midway through the fourth quarter with Johnson at the top of the key. After a quick pass over to him, Johnson gave a quick hesitation before driving to his left and past his defender.
With the quick step, Johnson’s only remaining opponent at the basket was Morris, who was unfortunate enough to find himself between the high-flying Heat and the rim.
This is what happened next:
Morris was whistled for a foul on the play.
The Miami Heat took until the final moments on Tuesday night to beat the Detroit Pistons, but it was worth it. With just a handful of games left to play, the Heat need to stave off the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Thanks to a tip at the buzzer by Hassan Whiteside, they’re one step closer to achieving that goal.
The play came with just seconds left in the fourth quarter. James Johnson missed a shot with six seconds to go, and the Heat grabbed the rebound. Goran Dragic then tried his hand, but he couldn’t get it to go, either.
That’s when Whiteside came back with a tip at the buzzer that ended the game.
Miami now sits at 36-38, a game above the Bulls for the No. 8 seed.
Whiteside, meanwhile, is never going to wash that hand again:
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.
Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.
Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”
Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.
Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.
“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.
The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.