Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is expected to be sidelined for several weeks after suffering a high right ankle sprain in Saturday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks..
This puts pressure on the Lakers’ top role players like Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma, but it also gives a chance to someone like Talen Horton-Tucker.
Horton-Tucker has enjoyed an expanded role in his second NBA season. At just 20 years old, he’s proven that he can be a legitimate role player — and even borderline star — in this league. However, given his ball-dominant play style, he was given fewer opportunities when James was playing.
Now, with James out, Frank Vogel sees this as a chance for Horton-Tucker to grow his game. “It’s a great growth opportunity,” Vogel said.
“He makes a lot of things happen off the bounce, getting to the paint. He’s not always perfect with his reads. He’s a young player, but that’s what you get with a young player. I just like his aggressiveness and he’s really going to grow during this stretch.”
Horton-Tucker believes that paying attention to his mistakes will allow him to capitalize on this chance. “Just to pay attention and learn from my mistakes from everything game-by-game. Being a sponge is something that I got to keep doing, so just being able to do that.”
While he still makes those mistakes, he has learned a ton from being a rotational piece on a championship contender this season.
“I’m still learning, mostly on the defensive end just trying to make the right reads and make the right plays to help us win,” Horton-Tucker said. “So offensively, just taking my time to get in spots. Learning different reads to make is something that’s gonna happen for me.”
Horton-Tucker appears to be aware that the next few weeks will be huge for him. Not only will it help him prove his value for the postseason, but it will also be a chance for opposing teams to get a sense of how much they should offer when he hits restricted free agency this summer.
Schroder, Harrell and Kuzma will share the majority of the pressure and responsibility, but Horton-Tucker is certainly one with the biggest opportunity in James’ absence.
Vogel optimistic after loss to Suns
Despite losing by 17 to the Phoenix Suns in their first game without James on Sunday night, the Lakers showed plenty of fight. Vogel was encouraged by this as they move forward. “I’m optimistic. I think our guys really fought tonight.”
“We didn’t shoot the ball that well, but I thought we competed at a very high level and it’s going to take a little time as we adjust to figure out where the shots are coming from or what our new identity is going to look like. But we’re going to play within our system,” Vogel said.
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!