With LeBron James and Anthony Davis sitting during the first two preseason games, you would think that all eyes would be on the Lakers’ new signings as fans might want to see how players like Montrezl Harrell or Marc Gasol may fit with the team. Although those two (as well as the other new players) have played well, everyone can’t stop talking about the play of Talen Horton-Tucker as he starts his second season in the NBA.
He followed up an impressive first preseason game on Friday night with a monster performance Sunday, ending with 33 points (11/17 FGs – 4/5 3P FGs), 10 rebounds, four assists, and four steals. The performance garnered him A LOT of Sunday evening social media engagement, as he received six (SIX) posts about him on the extremely popular sports platform Bleacher Report (all while an important Sunday Night Football game was being played in the NFL).
Drake and Quavo are big fans of THT pic.twitter.com/8CqpJVa8Bu
— Ali B (@ali_behpoornia) December 14, 2020
Outside of the locker room, Talen Horton-Tucker was getting praise from the likes of Quavo from the Migos as well as one of the most popular rappers and pop stars in the world, Drake (Tweet above). Inside of the locker room, Marc Gasol and Frank Vogel praised his obviously impressive play on the offensive end, while also making sure to point out his work on the defensive end where his insanely long wingspan has led to some steals and deflections for the 20-year-old.
“Obviously he’s still young and he’s going to make some mistakes from time to time, but he has as much defensive talent as he does offensive talent,” Vogel said. “So I feel like he’s going to fit in well for us.” (transcribed by Dave McMenamin/ESPN)
“A lot of players can put the ball in the basket, but if you can do both things (offense and defense), that’s when you have a chance to be special.” – Marc Gasol on Talen Horton-Tucker (per Ryan Ward of Lakersdaily.com)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was asked about Talen’s 52 points in his first two games, saying he has “been playing like that since the start of training camp” and that he has been an “all-around player” for them. This is a blessing, but also a curse to head coach Frank Vogel. He surely notices how well THT is playing and how hard he has worked over his short amount of time with the Lakers, but THT is still far down the rotation. Vogel said the following about trying to get him into the rotation for this season (per Dave McMenamin/ESPN):
“We have a very deep team. No minutes are guaranteed,” Vogel said. “He’s going to keep playing at a high level, and that should push everybody else to stay playing at a high level. It does give us that luxury of having him carry the load some for some of our guys who played deep in the championship run last year and had a short offseason.”
THT may not have a breakout season with a constant place in the rotation but Alex Caruso didn’t have that much success early on in his NBA career, either. Although Horton-Tucker was at least drafted compared to Caruso going undrafted, THT sees AC as a good “measuring stick” to keep himself honest moving forward:
“Everybody’s journey is different, but I just feel like AC is a pretty good one,” Horton-Tucker said. “Just being able to see him next to me everyday, it gives you a good measuring stick to see where you are individually. So just being able to have a guy like that and see the success that he’s had, it gives me confidence in myself that I can do the same thing.”
No matter how many minutes Talen Horton-Tucker receives this season, he’s just feeling blessed to be in this position for this franchise.
“I look at it as a blessing,” Horton-Tucker said. “It’s actually crazy because I feel like what other 19-, 20-year-old gets this experience in the world? Not too many. So just being able to take everything in and learn from it every day, seeing other superstars kind of notice it is actually pretty good.”