The Los Angeles Lakers turned to a small-ball game plan in Game 4 against the Houston Rockets, benching JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard.
And due to the absence of the injured Dion Waiters, second-round draft pick Talen Horton-Tucker was surprisingly put into the game in the second quarter. Horton-Tucker played just seven minutes, but demonstrated in that short time why the Lakers have been so high on him throughout the season.
Gathering five points, two rebounds and two steals, the rookie put his mark on the game, as L.A. increased their lead from four to 13 during his minutes. Despite only playing five minutes the entire season before entering the Walt Disney World bubble, Horton-Tucker believes he would have been capable of contributing regardless of the circumstance.
“I feel like I would’ve been ready to come in and just do whatever they ask me to do,” Horton-Tucker said. “That’s what my main goal was coming into this whole bubble experience. Just come in and do whatever they ask me to do. I feel like I would’ve been ready a few months ago and feel like I’m ready now.”
The rookie received some advice from LeBron James prior to getting this opportunity. “He just told me to stay focused and do what I do. He told me they got me,” Horton-Tucker recalled .”What better words can you get from LeBron as a 19-year-old? I just went in there and tried to do as best I could to help get the win.”
Not only has he learned from James’ words, but also being able to share the court with him, Anthony Davis, and Rajon Rondo. “It’s great. What more could a kid ask for? Having those guys to look up to and try to model my game after them every day has been great,” the rookie said.
“I’m just taking it all in and trying to get better.”
Being just 19, finding a place on a team populated by many people over 30 can’t be easy. Luckily, Horton-Tucker has had Alex Caruso as a mentor.
“He’s a great teammate. Most of the guys are pretty older than me, so just being able to have a conversation with him, just talk and pick his brain. Being able to do that and have him as a resource has been good,” Horton Tucker said.
When asked about his role moving forward, Horton-Tucker tried not to think too much about it. “Just trying to embrace the moment I’m in and do the best with that,” he explained.
Danny Green praises Horton-Tucker after debut
On top of Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and James heaping praise on Horton-Tucker, Danny Green also raved about the rookie. “He came in ultra-confident, which is impressive,” Green said. “I always liked his game from the day he came here. I thought he could bring a lot to us, I think he just needs more minutes behind the wheel to get comfortable.
“‘Bron and all the vets did a great job of making him feel comfortable. ‘Bron came in the huddle and gave him the ultimate green light to just hoop. ‘Listen, we’ve got your back. Don’t worry about anything else. Just play basketball and we’ll direct you where you need to go and we’ll cover for whatever mistakes you make.’
“So he came in, played his game and did what we know he can do. I’ve seen some special things from him and I think he’s going to be a great player in this league one of these days, so I’m looking forward to watching him grow. He came in and gave us great minutes. Those minutes were huge and I expect him to keep that up.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!