After an impressive start to the 2020-21 season, Talen Horton-Tucker has seen his playing time fluctuate the past couple of weeks.
He turned heads within and outside the Los Angeles Lakers organization during the preseason as the 20-year-old flashed his scoring ability and defensive potential. Horton-Tucker continued his impressive play at the start of the season and it looked like head coach Frank Vogel was going to be forced to give him a bigger role in the rotation.
However, Horton-Tucker was a healthy scratch for the team’s recent games against the Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks. Fortunately, the young guard was back in the rotation against the Chicago Bulls and contributed to the Lakers’ 101-90 victory.
It was further noteworthy in that the game represented a homecoming for Horton-Tucker, who once was on the floor at the United Center as a young child.
“I played in a Bulls training camp for younger kids, and I made it to the final round, so we came and played here at the United Center,” Horton-Tucker recalled. “I was really young, so it’s a little hard for me to remember. But it felt good actually being out there tonight.”
Unfortunately for the second-year win, this season’s trip to Chicago was unlike any other because of health and safety protocols the league implemented in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“I feel like just being able to go see family,” Horton-Tucker said of what he missed most. “You’re kind of stuck in a hotel, so being able to do that is something people kind of take for granted sometimes. Not being able to do that made me look at it and appreciate it a bit more.”
Horton-Tucker played 21 minutes and scored 10 points to go along with two rebounds and a steal. It was ultimately a solid outing for the young guard as he provided a spark on both ends at a time when the Lakers desperately needed it.
Chicago looked like they on the verge of turning the game around, but Los Angeles was able to rally and retake control thanks to Horton-Tucker’s play on both ends.
It is usually a treat for players to play games back in their hometowns as they often will have family and friends in attendance, though that may have been a challenge for Horton-Tucker even under normal circumstances.
“I know I’m a young guy, so I probably wouldn’t have got too many (tickets). But I probably would’ve had requests for a whole section,” he said. “My family here in Chicago, they support me a lot, so I know they would’ve come out and supported to the fullest.”
Despite the oddities of the regular season, Horton-Tucker is getting a chance to develop on a championship caliber team. He previously stated that he feels comfortable playing in any role and will need to keep that mentality.
Horton-Tucker could be future cornerstone for Lakers
At 20 years old, Horton-Tucker has so much time to grow as a player. His unique skillset is what made him an intriguing draft prospect, and it looks like Los Angeles might have come away with another late draft steal.
Horton-Tucker’s ceiling appears high and if his development curve continues to rise then the purple and gold just might have a cornerstone piece to build around.
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