Lakers players beyond hyped about rookie Talen Horton-Tucker
With the Los Angeles Lakers being a legitimate title contender and stacked with battle-tested veterans this season, rookie Talen Horton-Tucker hasn’t had the opportunity to show what he can do on the NBA level.
The Iowa State product played in only two games for the Lakers before the suspension of the season in March, averaging only 2.5 minutes in those games. He only attempted one shot in the two games played and finished with a total of two assists and a steal.
Although he hasn’t been able to showcase his skills for the Lakers, he’s done plenty to prove his worth in the G League for the South Bay Lakers. Horton-Tucker averaged 18.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 42.5 percent from the floor and 30.9 percent from deep.
With the Lakers able to expand their roster to 17 players, Horton-Tucker traveled to the NBA bubble in Orlando and could see some playing time in the upcoming scrimmage and seeding games. Along with having the opportunity to put his skills on display in Orlando, the rookie has been receiving some high praise from his teammates and head coach Frank Vogel.
“His body changed,” Vogel said. “Dropped a lot of weight, got himself in great shape…He also did a lot of work on his shot. His perimeter shot really has improved throughout the course of this year, and because of those two things, he’s had some success.
“It’s really brought a lot of confidence to him as a young player, and that’s what’s showing up right now, is how confident he’s playing. He’s playing beyond his years in these practices and scrimmages.”
One Lakers teammate that has taken the 19-year-old rookie under his wing of sorts is Kyle Kuzma. The third-year forward is far from a veteran, and he admits that fact, but he knows how tough it can be to be playing for such a prestigious franchise at a young age.
“Talen is a great player,” Kuzma said of the Lakers rookie. “He’s just young. A young player obviously playing on an older team. Being in the G League a lot because there hasn’t been no time, but he’s developed in the G League, and he’s had a good camp.”
“I’ve always been cool with him on the team since last training camp,” Kuzma said of Horton-Tucker. “Him just being a young guy, and I’m just trying to help. I’m young, too. I know Talen. That’s my boy.”
Kuzma also detailed how he’s mentoring the young guard throughout the season and during their time in the NBA bubble thus far. Horton-Tucker is soaking up the knowledge and seems to love the process of learning.
“Show him. Story tell a little bit about my days as a rookie,” Kuzma said. “Trying to help him. A lot of times, when you are a young guy, you take the blame. You take the fall for a lot of things—a lot of mishaps in practice.
“It’s frustrating, but I try to tell him it’s part of the process. Everybody goes through it. He’s just a young guy that wants to take everything in. He’s a sponge. Loves basketball. Loves being around us. Loves everything about it.”
Along with Kuzma, Lakers newcomer Dion Waiters has also liked what he’s seen from the rookie guard.
“I like Talen a lot,” Waiters said. “I built a relationship with Talen, I’ve been in his ear a lot, telling him to make sure he’s doing the little things and watch the group that goes before him and just stay locked in. He’s got a lot of upside also.”
Horton-Tucker has clearly made an impression on his Lakers teammates and his head coach. The real question moving forward is whether he’ll get the opportunity to show fans and the rest of the league what he can do on the main stage while in the bubble.
He’ll almost certainly get some playing time ahead of the NBA playoffs in the 11 games before the postseason. Still, unless the team gets hit with more injuries in the backcourt, which could conceivably happen considering the situation, the rookie will have to make use of the limited time he’ll have on the floor.
The Lakers rookie will be one of many players in the NBA bubble trying to seize an opportunity to shine under the bright lights. Rookie Bol Bol of the Denver Nuggets recently showed what he can do with his opportunity putting on a show in the team’s first scrimmage blocking six shots along with scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 32 minutes.
Horton-Tucker can only hope to get the same kind of opportunity when the Lakers begin playing their scrimmage game and the seeding games to follow.