Talen Horton-Tucker has yet to make his season debut for the Los Angeles Lakers after injuring his thumb in the preseason.
After a breakout year in 2020-21, head coach Frank Vogel had high expectations for Horton-Tucker. The 20-year-old has already proved to be a talented, multi-level scorer with some unique physical characteristics. The Iowa State product has also shown off his maturity, receiving criticism with humility and putting in the extra work to fix the weaknesses in his game.
In the preseason, Vogel revealed, the coaching staff challenged Horton-Tucker to improve on the defensive end, trying to fill the void left in the Lakers’ defense by the departures of Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. That was why the absence of the young guard —and Trevor Ariza — particularly hurt L.A., the head coach said.
But Horton-Tucker is nearing his return and could restart shooting drills on Tuesday, Vogel revealed.
“He got his stitches out and hope to have him start doing some shooting tomorrow, but still on track for the timetable that we laid out,” he said.
The Lakers said Horton-Tucker would be re-evaluated in four weeks after the young guard had surgery on the injured thumb.
The Lakers struggled defensively over the first few games of the season but appeared to have made progress on that end in the recent two outings. L.A. held the Cleveland Cavaliers to 101 points on Friday and then gave up just 85 against the Houston Rockets on Sunday, winning both games and finally jumping above .500.
Horton-Tucker and Ariza’s eventual comebacks will only help the Lakers again become the fearsome defense that won them the NBA championship not long ago.
Anthony Davis credits improved communication for defensive progress
Anthony Davis thinks the Lakers communicated better in the last two games, allowing the team to work as a unit and follow its game plan — leading to more stops on the defensive end as a result.
“I think our communication was very on point tonight which helped us with a lot of our coverages where we usually have some struggles,” he said.
“But when we’re out there communicating and guys are listening to everyone and making sure that guys are talking and holding guys accountable on a defensive end, we can play really good defense.”
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