Talen Horton-Tucker has been thrust into deep water this season as the 20-year-old guard suddenly became a big part of the Los Angeles Lakers’ rotation.
The Iowa State product caught head coach Frank Vogel’s eye last year when he traveled with the team to the Orlando bubble. Horton-Tucker even made a surprising cameo in the second-round series with the Houston Rockets, notching his NBA playoffs debut.
And Vogel undeniably continues trusting the guard. He’s already played in 33 games this season, averaging 17.5 minutes a night.
Such a rapid role upgrade meant the sophomore had to quickly polish off rough edges to prevent his inexperience from becoming a vulnerability — particularly on L.A.’s own backcourt considering the team’s defense-first mindset.
But Horton-Tucker doesn’t feel he is being targeted on the defensive end. “I really don’t think so,” he said. “I just feel like sometimes you’re just in that position, so I don’t feel like they’re picking on me.”
The guard added he cherishes the abundance of opportunities coach Vogel has been giving him this season, believing this is the best way he can improve his defense and overall game. “I feel like the only way for me to learn is to play, so being able to actually get the chance to play this year and get put in those positions has helped me learn for the future,” Horton-Tucker said.
“I feel like I’m appreciative for it.”
Horton-Tucker is registering 7.2 points, 2.0 assists, and 2.4 rebounds per game this season and, as part of Vogel’s roster changes, he was recently being given more ball-handling responsibilities to reduce the load on LeBron James’ shoulders.
Vogel didn’t want to have regrets with Horton-Tucker in 2020 NBA playoffs
Last month, Vogel recalled Horton-Tucker’s appearance in the Rockets series. The coach explained the young guard impressed him in training to the extent he felt the need to offer him rotation minutes — regardless of what was at stake.
“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,’” he said. “I at least wanted to throw him out there.”
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