Q&A With Jeremy Lamb
Talking motivation, perception and the importance of being a two-way player with the Rockets' rookie guard
HOUSTON - With training camp about a month away, several Rockets players are already back on the Toyota Center practice court, working to get ready for the upcoming season. To find out what they’ve been up to this offseason, Rockets.com’s Jason Friedman will sit down with each player over the next few weeks to discuss what they’re working on, what their goals are, and how they’ve been spending the summer both on and off the court.
Taking his turn in the hot seat today is rookie guard Jeremy Lamb. What follows is a transcript of their conversation.
JCF: What have you been up to since last we saw you in Vegas?
JL: I was at home in Atlanta for a little while and I also went back up to school in Connecticut and did some camps and got to workout out there. So I tried to rest up as much as possible, but I got a lot of work in as well.
JCF: You had such a great summer league in Vegas, being named one of the event's All-Stars while scoring at such a high rate. Have you found that you’ve been treated any differently since that experience and that first small taste of NBA success?
JL: I don’t think people have treated me differently. People just told me, ‘It’s summer league – use that time to get better.’ I know when you get on the real stage it’s a different level. Summer league is just the first part – just another step. So I don’t get too high off of summer league and I don’t get too low. I just wanted to go out there, build some chemistry, get to know my teammates, get to know my coaches’ coaching style. I wouldn’t say I’ve been treated any differently since that experience.
JCF: Was there any one thing that stands out to you that you took from or learned from that experience?
JL: That I just have to make sure I play both ends of the court. I can’t just play offense, I have to focus on defense, too. There were times when I couldn’t hit a shot, but as I started playing defense, getting stops, getting out and getting some easy buckets, I got myself going. In the NBA, with an 82-game season, every night you’re going to have to find ways to get yourself going, and one of the ways to do that is by playing both ends of the floor.
JCF: Now that you’re back in Houston, what are you focusing on the most right now?
JL: I’m just focused on trying to learn from the vets; working hard, working on my handle, sharpening my skills and trying to go even further. I’m learning from the coaches and the vets so that hopefully I can get better.
JCF: What message have the coaches been trying to hammer home to you of late?
JL: Just to play full speed and to stay low (on defense). Those are some things that I forget at times. It may look like I’m not playing full-speed or it may look like I’m standing straight up but I’ve got to exaggerate and really work hard, really bend my knees and stay low, and the coaches have been working a lot with me on that.
JCF: One of the things I wanted to touch on is that you have this very calm demeanor that makes it fairly obvious that you don’t get too high or too low while playing. But I know certain people see that and mistake it for you being detached or disinterested. They might say, ‘Oh, he doesn’t have the fire and doesn’t care.’ But I know from talking to people who know you and even to the coaching staff, they all say the same thing: ‘Jeremy is a competitor. Don’t let that can look deceive you. He wants to win, he hates to lose and he wants to be the best.’ Has battling that perception been a perpetual fight for you throughout your basketball career?
JL: Yeah, at times I have had to deal with that. Like I said, it might look like I’m not working hard sometimes and my coaches will really get on me, but I find that most of the time they’ll say I’m not working hard if I’m missing my shots. If I’m missing my shots and it looks like I’m not working hard, then they’ll get on me. But if I’m making shots, getting steals, getting rebounds, then there’s nothing they can really fuss about. So I’ve just got to make sure I play hard and not let the way I look affect the way I play.
JCF: Well I know that for many players, especially young players, their offense tends to drive their defense. That is to say, the effort they expend on the defensive end of the floor is directly proportional to the percentage of their shots that are falling. Coaches talk about that sort of thing all the time. Do you personally find it challenging at this point to exert the same level of energy on defense when your shots aren’t falling?
JL: I think at times, yeah, it is. In the past I’ve found myself not playing as hard on defense if my shot’s not going in. But, like I said, in summer league I really learned that I’ve got to play both ends of the floor, regardless. In summer league I played hard on defense and tried to stop my man whether my shot was going in or not. That is a battle and I have to remind myself of that, but I’m working on it because I know the only way I’ll earn playing time is if I give maximum effort on both ends.
JCF: Going back to your competitive instinct for a moment, I’m always interested in what drives people. For Michael Jordan, doubters and critics fueled his fire. Where does that motivation come from for you?
JL: Like you said, it comes the most from the doubters. I’m not the biggest person, and all my life people have said, ‘You’re too skinny, or you're too this.’ So I’m just trying to prove those people wrong. I’m also trying to take care of my mom, take care of family and those who supported me growing up. I just want to make them proud and that’s where so much of my motivation comes from.
JCF: Do you find Twitter to be a very useful tool from a motivational standpoint? I’m sure you encounter no shortage of negativity there, especially after losses.
JL: I try not to look at Twitter often during the season. I’ll look at it, but of course people are going to be saying stuff on there and you don’t want to get in trouble by responding in the heat of the moment in an unprofessional way.
At times Twitter is hard to look at, but you’ve got to have good people around you that believe in you even when times are bad. You just have to be around the right people and know when it’s time to stay away from social media. Social media is a good tool and it’s beneficial in many ways, but there are times when it’s better to be disciplined and stay away.
JCF: What is your goal for this upcoming season?
JL: Just to contribute and do what I can to help the team win, whether that’s putting the ball in the hole, getting stops, getting rebounds – whatever it takes. I want to be on the floor to help my team.
JCF: Do you care whether or not you’re starting?
JL: No. Of course I’m going to work and work to start and get minutes, but if I’m not starting that’s not my concern. My concern is to contribute and do whatever I can.
JCF: All-Rookie team on your radar at all?
JL: That would be great. Playing in the Rookie-Sophomore game during All-Star weekend in Houston would be great. I’m putting in the work to do that.
JCF: Five years from now, when people are talking about Jeremy Lamb the basketball player, what do you think they’ll be saying? Where do you see yourself?
JL: I’m working to be one of the best scorers at my position. But I want to be a game-changer on both ends of the floor. I want to be known as someone who’s able to do whatever it takes to will my team to win.