Talen Horton-Tucker has emerged as the preseason star for the Los Angeles Lakers, making a case he is ready to join the rotation on a regular basis in what could be a challenging 2020-21 season that will be played amid a pandemic.
The Iowa State product started the first two exhibition games against the L.A. Clippers and played extended minutes in the 112-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns, averaging 23.3 points a night. The guard proved to be a capable rebounder and showed off his impressive 7’1 wingspan that translated into some quality defense.
Horton-Tucker has been receiving high praise from Lakers veterans such as LeBron James and Wesley Matthews during the preseason and was said to have even impressed Clippers star Kawhi Leonard.
And former Memphis Grizzlies stalwart Tony Allen told The Ringer’s Chris Vernon the 20-year-old has long been aware he can make it in the NBA. Allen recalled Horton-Tucker exuding confidence during an impressive performance for the South Bay Lakers last season:
“I saw him in the G League and he killed it. He had like 29 at halftime. I’m like, ‘He with us!’ That man looked at me and said, ‘I don’t even belong down here.’ He told me that. He said, ‘I don’t belong in no G League. I don’t belong down here.’ Hit a 3 next play down. Bam. Looked dead at me. I said, ‘That boy real!’ I said, ‘He real.’ … He had like 38 that game in the G League, so now seeing him do this right here, this kid been working on his game. You can tell who’s been working on their game when they come back the next year.”
Ahead of the preseason opener with the Clippers, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said he expected Horton-Tucker to be ready to contribute to the team “immediately.” After the second exhibition game, Vogel added he was not surprised by the second-year guard’s performance, and that he welcomed the 20-year-old showing he was worthy of rotation minutes this season.
Horton-Tucker embraces tough love from Lakers coaches
Vogel has said he has been harsher on Horton-Tucker in training camp, hoping to unleash his potential. And the guard appears to be embracing the extra pressure. “Coaches being a little bit harder on me, I feel like is good for my development,” Horton-Tucker said.
“I just feel like anything the coaches or players say to me is good. So I listen to it and I appreciate it.”
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