The Los Angeles Lakers have a track record of finding gems on the fringes of the NBA Draft. Talen Horton-Tucker could turn out to be the organization’s most recent discovery after impressing in the Orlando bubble and thus far in training camp and the preseason.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel surprised the Houston Rockets when he included Horton-Tucker in the rotation during Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals last season. And Vogel recently proved the Iowa State product continued gaining his trust, claiming the guard could contribute “immediately” for L.A.
Horton-Tucker started in the 87-81 preseason victory over the L.A. Clippers, ending up with game-high 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists, and impressing throughout the night.
Lakers veteran Wes Matthews revealed the 20-year-old even caught the eye of Clippers star Kawhi Leonard. “Kawhi was like, ‘Wesley, Talen is 19?’ I’m like, ‘Huh? Nineteen?’ So I asked him and he was like, ‘Yeah, I just turned 20.’ I said, ‘Wow,’” Matthews recalled.
After owning up to the fact Matthews knew little about Horton-Tucker he heaped praise on his young teammate, saying he was “excited to hopefully be a part of his growth process.”
“So ‘special’ is definitely the word to describe his game,” Matthews added. “He’s young, he’s got all the tools, he’s a dog, he’s tough on the offensive end and defensive end, he’s crafty. He’s got some stuff to him and he’s only going to get better.”
Matthews himself did not receive recognition from NBA scouts in the 2009 NBA Draft, eventually signing with the Utah Jazz as an undrafted free agent. And even though he said he was always open to mentor any young player, the 34-year-old admitted his past allowed him to develop a special rapport with players who did not make it to the top of the draft, such as Horton-Tucker and Kyle Kuzma.
“I can relate a little bit more and easier to guys who are in my similar situation where you had to really go get it out of the mud,” Matthews said. “I resonate with everybody, but … it’s a little bit easier to be a mentor to those I can fully relate to.”
Caruso suffered hip injury in win over Clippers
Alex Caruso suffered a strained hip flexor on Friday in one of the few downsides of the victory over the Clippers. The guard slipped in the first half and following a return shortly after for a couple minutes, sat out the remainder of the game.
However, Caruso’s injury is believed to be minor and he should be ready to play in later preseason games.
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