By Sam Perley, hornets.com
If the Charlotte Hornets are going to have the kind of year Head Coach Steve Clifford hopes they can have, depth will have to be its biggest strength. In order for this to happen though, he mentioned something like, “Jeremy Lamb [coming] out of nowhere,” will need to be in the cards for the team this season.
Now entering his sixth year in the league (and third with the Hornets), shooting guard Jeremy Lamb has positioned himself quite well thanks to the most dedicated offseason of his career. While he focused a lot of his summer on on-the-court improvements, Lamb’s off-the-court habits also underwent a major overhaul as well.
“I think on the court, I tried to focus on my three-ball. I didn’t shoot well from three at all last year, so I tried to work on my mindset shooting the three,” said Lamb on Hornets Media Day. “I watched a lot of film of shots that I made, shots that I missed and trying to just get better on that. Working on defense, handle, finishing around the basket, floater, mid-range, but I think a huge focus was three-ball.”
He added, “Off the court, just trying to get in a routine of eating, sleeping the right way and not starting [good routines] the week before the season. Trying to stay hydrated throughout the summer.”
While Lamb put up career highs last year in scoring (9.7 points), rebounding (4.3), field-goal percentage (46.0 percent) and made free throws (110), his consistency was self-admittedly a weakness at times. Last season, he missed 10 games in November with a left hamstring strain and another nine games in January with an inflamed toe, ailments that only further added to the challenge.
“You can’t play good one game, bad one game, good one game. Of course, you’re going to have some ups and downs in the season,” he stated. “It’s a long season. It’s a grind. You’re going to have some bumps and bruises, but all I can do is lean on my hard work and like I said consistency. I try and get better at being consistent. Consistency is definitely a focus year in and year out.”
Lamb’s efforts certainly haven’t gone unnoticed by Clifford, who has earned an irrefutable reputation as a straight shooter during his time in Charlotte.
“I’ve said before, Jeremy Lamb has had as good a summer as anybody. He’s worked hard and I think he’s ready to take a big step also,” stated the Hornets Head Coach.
“It means a lot [when Coach Clifford talks positively about me],” reflected Lamb. “I’ve always said [he’s] a great coach and he tells it how it is. He’ll never lie to you. When someone like that is talking good about you, it always encourages you and gets you hyped for the season.”
“The biggest thing that stands out to me is how much he improved his body,” said teammate Kemba Walker. “He gained some weight [and] a lot of muscle mass actually. His body looks a lot different to me and he just worked on his game. He was in the gym every single day and that’s what it takes to become a better player in this league.”
Walker, who has known Lamb since their playing days at the University of Connecticut during the 2010-11 season, also pinpointed where he felt this new-found commitment stemmed from.
“The talent is there. It’s been there, but he just wants to be better. We need him to be great. We need him to be consistent. For the last couple years, we’ve been telling him that. For J-Lamb, he’s always told us he’s never been depended on as much as we depend on him. I think he’s starting to realize how important he is to this organization and this team. I think he’s starting to figure it out.”
As Lamb previously mentioned, the NBA schedule certainly takes a toll on players both physically and mentally over the course of the season. A lot of the preparations for each of the campaign’s 82 regular season games are rooted in developing good routines and practices away from the court.
Today, NBA players dabble in all sorts of different things to help them gain an edge including diets, workouts, stretching, meditation and sports psychology. Much of a player’s seasonal success (or lack thereof perhaps) is determined by what kind of work was put in during the previous summer.
Lamb did get to enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation down in Turks and Caicos during the off months and also developed a newfound affinity to one particular type of food.
“Actually, in my life, I’ve never been this guy, but now I’m a steak guy. I like to go to different steakhouses and try different steaks. I love a ribeye steak.”
After a disappointing 2016-17 campaign, the Charlotte Hornets are primed for a bounce-back season and will hopefully be on the receiving end of a career year from veteran Jeremy Lamb.