It seems like yesterday Frank Vogel was telling reporters in the NBA bubble how amazing Talen Horton-Tucker was in practice.
Big things seemed destined for Horton-Tucker – some people may have gotten carried away – after Vogel threw him at the Rockets in Game 4 of the 2020 Western Conference Semifinals, and THT followed that up with an epic preseason. Despite rotating 10 capable veterans in the 2020-21 season, Vogel sidelined Wes Matthews and Markieff Morris to allow time for Horton-Tucker midway through the year; the Lakers had a plus-8.5 point differential when THT was playing point guard that season, according to Cleaning the Glass.
And then the Lakers prioritized Horton-Tucker over Alex Caruso, a heartbreaking decision at the time, and one that has aged even worse. THT was injured early in the year, and putting aside a ridiculous shooting streak on his return from injury, he struggled to find his place in a littered roster of ballhandlers. After the Lakers reportedly refused to part ways with THT in their bid to acquire Kyle Lowry, they settled for trading him for Patrick Beverley.
Knowing all of this, it was shocking how little it mattered when Horton-Tucker first returned to Los Angeles as a member of the Utah Jazz. Sure, he got his tribute video — even though he joked with Kyle Goon that it might not happen — but once the reception was over, there was no further mention of Horton-Tucker the rest of the night. night. LeBron, who THT says is still texting him, wasn’t asked about his former teammate and Klutch Sports client after the game. Neither did Anthony Davis. That was decidedly not the case with Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or a number of other young Lakers who returned to Los Angeles.
Talen Horton-Tucker was once a player who was pivotal to the Lakers’ present and future. It ended Friday in a footnote.
I mean it’s no disrespect to Horton-Tucker, who brought his usual THT charm to the proceedings of the night. He worked his way to the basket, always finishing his right even though it required a backhand — I sneered when LeBron read his second-quarter spin perfectly and swallowed his layup attempt. THT had a few big buckets early in the fourth to hold the Jazz lead when the Lakers were threatening. He seems settled and satisfied in his new surroundings.
Horton-Tucker was just supposed to mean a lot more to the Lakers. Sure, he had an unremarkable season in 2012-22, no one would deny that — the Lakers found only one clip from that year to even include in his tribute video. It’s still weird that his departure is not even recognized.
But THT will be 22 at the end of this month. He has plenty of time to deliver the epic career that seemed possible to him two years ago. Perhaps then, his Baby Laker origins will resonate more.
It might be easier to ignore THT if he recalls the mistakes the Lakers made in 2021. Or the market for his services this summer might be okay, and the hype he got early in his career is not indicative of the player he has now. is. Either way, there’s usually a lot more hubbub around those who’ve moved away from purple and gold. As the man who once inspired such optimism among Lakers fans, Talen Horton-Tucker deserved it.
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