Damian Lillard was without his running mate CJ McCollum when the Trail Blazers dismantled the Phoenix Suns 108-86 on Thursday night, which meant some new-look rotations once again for the Blazers.
Spoiler Alert: Not playing for the last five games since Maurice Hakrless was inserted into the starting lineup, did not faze Jake Layman.
In fact, it looked like it helped.
It was Layman who was given the opportunity to see game action with McCollum out and he did not disappoint.
“He was great. Obviously, he started the season getting a lot of minutes with Moe being out and then fell out of the rotation, which happens sometimes. You know, it wasn’t anything that he hasn’t experienced. It’s been like that so far in his career. I think it just speaks to the kind of person that he is, the kind of player that he is and how committed he is to, you know, our team and trusting our coaching staff,” Lillard said.
In Layman’s’ first stint of 15 minutes, he scored 17 points, which was a new season-high, on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, 3-of-4 from three.
“I just went out there just trying to be aggressive, play within our offense, not do anything too crazy… Dame was finding me,” Layman said.
Layman didn’t miss a bucket until the 10:19 in the second quarter after entering the game for Harkless at 5:36 in the first quarter.
Layman’s previous season-high in points came on November 1st at home against the New Orleans Pelicans where he scored 11 after being a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor.
JUST STAYING READY
“It would be easy for a guy to kinda be like, ‘man I was playing well, I was in the starting lineup, now I’m not playing,’ but he was prepared… His mind was right and in the right place and he came in and he impacted the game from the start,” Lillard said.
Layman finished with a career-high 24 points.
The 24-year-old learned the best way to "stay ready" from a former teammate.
“Just staying locked in. I learned a lot from our guy Pat, Pat Connaughton… I just had to stay locked in on the bench when you’re not playing and to be engaged,” Layman said.
All 13 players on the active list made it onto the floor, but Zach Collins was the only other bench player to score in double figure besides Layman. Collins had 10 points. Layman finished with the best +/- of the second unit with a +19.
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts had told the media during his pregame availability that he had talked to Layman about always staying ready.
Layman showed his coach he is able to do just that…
“He was great. In four minutes, 15 points in basically four minutes… I was happy for him. One of my assistants says it’s good karma. He came out of the starting lineup, had a good attitude, worked hard, knew that he was going to get an opportunity at some point and remained positive while he wasn’t playing and took advantage of the opportunity we he did come in,” Stotts said.
Not only did Layman stay ready, but he also made sure to have fun.
“Just happy to be back out there playing. I wanted to go out there and play hard, especially on defense, which I think I did tonight,” Layman said.
This season Layman is averaging 5.1 point per game and 2.3 rebounds up from his career averages of 2.3 points and 0.9 rebounds.
“I was ready… Coach told me that this could happen during the year, where I wouldn’t play in a stretch, so I was definitely ready for it, more than I would’ve been in the past couple of years,” Layman said.
STACHE OR NO STACHE?
Despite Layman’s performance it was his facial hair that seemed to steal the show. Layman admitted that he accidentally forgot that the safeguard trimmer was not on his electric shaver and when he tried to trim up one spot it shaved it all right off. He said it was a “personal preference” to keep the mustache and just wait to let the rest of the goatee grow back.
But the talk in the locker room is -- Layman should keep the ‘stache.
“It has to be the mustache,” Jusuf Nurkic said with a laugh.
“I’m not superstitious so I don’t, I mean, I think he needs to let the rest of his facial hair grow back. He looks crazy,” Lillard joked.
“If that’s what’s making him make shots- then keep it,” Lillard said.
Yet, Nurkic didn’t just credit the mustache.
“He was tremendous tonight… Stay ready and come out the way he played tonight, it showed (how) to be a pro. It was huge tonight for us,” Nurkic said.
“I thought it was a mustache game tonight,” Nurkic added.
Mark it down.
December 6th vs. the Suns – The Stache Game.