Jeremy Lamb 2021 Season Review

Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb discusses the emotions of returning from a major injury, how he was able to play so well after a long layoff, and his goals for the offseason.

Lamb 2021 Player Review

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Jeremy Lamb 2021 Season Review

Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb discusses the emotions of returning from a major injury, how he was able to play so well after a long layoff, and his goals for the offseason.
Jun 4, 2021  |  03:53

Jeremy Lamb 2020-21 Season Highlights

Check out some of the top plays from Jeremy Lamb's 2020-21 season.
Jun 4, 2021  |  00:59

2021 Exit Interview: Jeremy Lamb

May 21, 2021 - Jeremy Lamb reflects on the ups-and-downs of his season and discusses what he wants to improve on going forward.
May 21, 2021  |  01:46

Player Review 2021: Jeremy Lamb

by Wheat Hotchkiss Writer/Editor

Age: 29
Years Pro: 9
Status: Entering third and final year of contract signed with Indiana in summer of 2019.
Key Stats: Appeared in 36 games, starting eight. Averaged 10.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Shot an impressive 40.6 percent from 3-point range and 94.7 percent from the free throw line.

2020 was a difficult year across the globe. For Jeremy Lamb, the year brought a unique set of challenges.

On Feb. 23, Lamb suffered the most significant injury of his basketball career, tearing his left ACL in a game at Toronto. Lamb underwent successful surgery a few weeks later on the morning of March 11. That night, the NBA suspended its season abruptly after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the first in a domino-chain reaction of leagues and sports going on sudden hiatus.

Lamb began his rehab in the midst of a global pandemic, a truly bizarre set of circumstances. He accompanied his teammates to Orlando later that summer to cheer them on in the NBA bubble, then returned to Indianapolis to continue his recovery. The already isolated experience of rehab was made all the more so by health and safety protocols that limited access to team facilities and interaction with trainers.

But 2021 was a happier year for Lamb. The veteran guard returned to action on Jan. 20 against Dallas, less than 11 months after tearing his ACL. Not only that, he played remarkably well in the weeks following his return, showing few signs of rust despite his long layoff.

PHOTO GALLERY: Jeremy Lamb's 2020-21 Season in Photos »

Lamb surprised himself in his debut, hitting his first four shots against Dallas on his way to 10 first half points. He did not score in the second half, but still, it was an encouraging first step.

"I think I was more surprised about my wind," Lamb said after the game. "I felt like I wasn't as tired as I thought I was going to be...My first couple shots were close to the basket. That definitely helped to give me some confidence."

Lamb looked even better two nights later, when he dropped 22 points in 28 minutes off the bench in an overtime win over Orlando. He then played both halves of a back-to-back against Toronto, tallying 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the first game and following up with 22 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and a steal the following night.

Even the best players in the world typically struggle initially when coming back from a major injury. The challenges of getting comfortable back on the court while playing against players already in midseason form creates a steep adjustment curve. Paul George shot just 36.7 percent from the field over six games in the 2014-15 season after returning from a fractured leg. Victor Oladipo shot only 29.5 percent over his first six games back last season after rupturing his quad tendon.

Jeremy Lamb, however, was a rare exception to that rule. He scored in double figures in seven of his first eight and 12 of his first 16 games back. Over 19 games in January and February, the veteran shooting guard averaged 11.7 points while shooting 49 percent from the field, 47.9 percent from 3-point range, and 93.5 percent from the free throw line.

Jeremy Lamb

Photo Credit: Matt Kryger

Lamb played so remarkably well upon his return that even his own teammates marveled at his performance.

"Jeremy's come back and playing at a high level since literally the first game back, which honestly, I haven't seen," Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon said.

Unfortunately for Lamb, injuries ultimately derailed the comeback train. He sat out a game against Philadelphia on March 1 due to soreness in his left knee before returning for Indiana's final two games before the All-Star break. He played in the first game post-break in Los Angeles, then sat out three more contests with knee soreness. Two weeks later, he sprained his right toe, which forced him to miss three more games.

Lamb returned to the lineup on April 6 and played in the next eight contests. But he was ruled out for the April 19 game against San Antonio due to knee soreness. Though he was initially listed as day-to-day, Lamb did not play again, sitting out the final 16 regular season games and both games in the Play-In Tournament.

On the year, Lamb appeared in exactly half of the Pacers' regular season contests and scored in double figures exactly half the time, surpassing 10 points in 18 contests and topping 20 points on three occasions.

Statistically, Lamb was in many ways better in 2020-21 than he was in 2019-20, averaging more points and rebounds on a per-36 minute basis and shooting a significantly higher percentage from 3-point range. Lamb struggled from beyond the arc in his first season in Indiana, posting a .335 3-point percentage in 2019-20. This season, however, Lamb shot 40.6 percent on 128 3-point attempts, the only Pacer to hoist at least 100 3-pointers and convert at a 40-percent clip.

Always a good free throw shooter over his nine-year career, Lamb was Indiana's best from the charity stripe last season, going 71-for-75 (94.7 percent) from the line.

After the season, Lamb told the media that this season was full of complex emotions, from the joy of his successful return to the frustration of how the season ended.

"Overall, I can say that I gave it all I had," Lamb said. "And I can take the summer to strengthen my body and just get right so I can have a healthy year next year."

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