Talen Horton-Tucker has impressed in his sophomore season with the Los Angeles Lakers and continued to reap the benefits of his hard work trust of head coach Frank Vogel.
The Iowa State product matched his career-high 17 points to cap off an all-around performance in the 114-93 victory over the Denver Nuggets last Thursday. After briefly falling down the pecking order on the recent road trip, Horton-Tucker once again proved he deserved to be a part of Vogel’s rotation this season.
Interestingly, the head coach said he wasn’t aware of the guard’s talent until after he could finally watch him closely in the Orlando bubble. Vogel added it was Horton-Tucker’s impressive versatility and industry on both ends of the floor that resulted in the then 19-year-old guard’s surprising cameo against the Houston Rockets in the second-round playoff matchup last season.
“For me to put him in a playoff game against the Houston Rockets and James Harden, that shows the level of trust I had with him back then,” Vogel recalled. “I remember thinking I don’t want to look back and say, ‘Well, we tried to beat this team and I had this guy sitting on the bench and I didn’t even use him.’
“I at least wanted to throw him out there.”
Vogel also explained the drop in Horton-Tucker’s minutes on the floor over the last couple of weeks wasn’t caused by his performance but rather stemmed from the great roster depth L.A. boasts this season.
“Every test we’ve given him, he’s passed, played really well, and continued to earn a bigger role,” the Lakers coach said. “The thing is we have a lot of guys on this team, so there’s some stretches where he’s not going to play as much as others but it doesn’t mean we have any kind of lack of confidence in him.”
Vogel still evaluating promising LeBron, Caruso, Horton-Tucker, Kuzma & Harrell Lineup
Horton-Tucker was part of a lineup that fared particularly well in recent games. LeBron James, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell completed the intriguing rotation that has taken hold of late.
Asked about the lineup, Vogel said it was too early to assess how impactful the group really is on the defensive end of the floor. But the coach added he would continue evaluating the formation.
“In each of the last two games we’ve hit stretches with that group where we played solid defense and were able to go on a run offensively, so we’ll continue to see how that plays out,” he said.
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