For the first three games of his rookie season, and for nearly the first 40 minutes of the fourth, Jake Layman was no more than a paid spectator, sitting on the Portland Trail Blazers bench and never removing his warmups.
It took less than eight minutes Tuesday night, in what was essentially mop-up duty of a 23-point blowout loss at home to the Golden State Warriors, for the former Maryland forward to go from an obscure second-round draft pick to an NBA record-holder.
And Twitter trend-setter.
And fan favorite at the Moda Center.
And, quite possibly, regular rotation player for the Trail Blazers.
“You know, I was glad. Obviously, he got in and made shots, got to get a good run,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said of Layman, the team's only draft pick in June.”I was glad for him that he got a little rhythm and hit his shots.”
Layman's first NBA training camp got off to a slow start. He missed two weeks after he injured his left shoulder during a practice running into teammate and former Duke star Mason Plumlee – figures, a former Blue Devil.
It didn't matter Tuesday. He finished with 17 points in less than eight minutes in his official NBA debut.
It was the most points by a Trail Blazer in his NBA debut since the team’s current star, former first-round draft pick Damian Lillard, scored 23 in 38 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012.
Layman’s five three-pointers tied him with Donyell Marshall for most in NBA history for a rookie making his debut. Layman was one made 3-pointer shy of Cliff Robinson’s team record in a quarter.
For those who missed it, here’s how Layman did it:
Layman hit his first NBA shot, a 25-footer, with 7:09 to play.
Then, after getting a defensive rebound, the 6-foot-9 Layman made another 25-footer exactly a minute later.
After a steal by fellow backup Shabazz Napier, Layman threw down a dunk with a Warrior riding his back with 5:20 to go.
Layman finally missed another long 3-pointer, from 26 feet, with 3:24 left, the ball going more than halfway down before spinning out.
He followed with two more 3-pointers, at the 2:54 mark and again 30 seconds later. He then airballed a 3-pointer with 1:46 to go – hey, his arms must have been tired.
With the crowd urging him to keep shooting, Layman drove into the lane and after getting double-teamed under the basket, found 2014 first-round pick Noah Vonleh at the top of the key for the first of his two straight 3s with 1:23 remaining.
Layman hit the last shot of the game, another long 3, with five seconds left. The crowd that had watched its beloved Blazers get blown out by two-time reigning NBA MVP Steph Curry and 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant gave the former Terp a standing ovation.
The reaction on Twitter was immediate.
Ray Allen retired so Jake Layman could take over #RipCity, tweeted @Petertran.
Where were you when Jake Layman made his NBA debut? tweeted @Mkarantzoulis.
Layman is the next Michael Jordan don’t @ me, tweeted @emmettjomalley
I think the worst part of this game is now Portland sports radio is going to be “WHY DON’T YOU PUT IN LAYMAN” for three straight months, tweeted @pdxbrocialite
His reaction after the game was typical of the low-key Layman, who was often questioned during his Maryland career for not being assertive and was never known for self-promoting in his postgame interviews.
“It was exciting to be out there for the first time,” Layman said. “It wasn’t fun being down 30, but it was fun to be out there and be aggressive, really. I got hot, but I was just being aggressive.”
Lillard and Durant had more to say about Layman than he had to say about himself.
"He was great," said Lillard, who finished with 31 points. "It was bittersweet that it was a blowout game, but it was fun to watch because you see him hit those one-dribble pull-ups in practice, hitting 3s -- super-athlete. It was fun to see the crowd get excited behind it. It was a bright spot for tonight."
Said Durant, “I thought we put together a pretty good game other than Layman getting hot there in the fourth quarter. Maybe he should be playing more.”
That could happen for a player the Trail Blazers traded into the draft to get, swapping $1 million and a future pick to the Orlando Magic, who drafted Layman 47th overall, seven spots behind where the Los Angeles Clippers selected Diamond Stone.
Portland gets back on the court Wednesday for a back-to-back in Phoenix, where Layman will have a little reunion with former Maryland teammate Alex Len, who didn't score as many as Layman did Tuesday until his second season with the Suns.
Asked if it was difficult to be aggressive given the one-sided nature of the game, Layman said, “In the position I’m in, you’ve got to play hard. That’s what was going through my mind.”