February 1, 2023


Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Why LeBron James and Lakers rave about Talen Horton-Tucker

LeBron James didn’t play in the Lakers’ preseason opener Friday night, but he did tweet an early review from the film session.

“Telling you right now! This kid is flat out SPECIAL!,” James tweeted. “Mark my words.”

He’d just gotten done watching his 20-year-old teammate Talen Horton-Tucker put the kind of all-around touches on the game that have had Lakers insiders raving for the past four months. The passing, the shot-making, the slashing — it was all on display in the Lakers’ 87-81 win Friday in their first game in Staples Center since March 11.

“That boy @Thortontucker is goin to be special,” Lakers veteran Jared Dudley tweeted after the win.

Horton-Tucker found himself in the starting lineup with James, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope all sitting out as healthy scratches. Building off his lone start as a rookie, which came in the bubble against the Kings, Horton-Tucker scored 19 points to go with nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.

“It was a blessing and a great opportunity getting the start tonight. I just wanted to come in and fulfill with what they wanted me to do. That was great for me,” Horton-Tucker said. “I appreciate it. It was a great experience and great opportunity for me to have early on this year. I just appreciated it. I felt good out there.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel has been one of the loudest voices talking up Horton-Tucker, who the Lakers traded into the second round in 2019 to take No. 46.

Highlights from the Lakers’ 87-81 preseason win over the Clippers at Staples Center on Friday.

“I would say he continues to impress. The young man has a great attitude, a great spirit, comes to work every day with humility, he just goes out there and kicks people’s butts, quite frankly. He’s a heck of a talent…” Vogel said earlier this week. “I’m coaching him harder than the rest of the players on the team, a lot of the veterans, because I think he’s got a chance to be really good for us immediately, not just down the road.”

After Horton-Tucker’s game Friday, Vogel was again complimentary — but his criticisms said even more for his expectations.

“He didn’t even finish well tonight at the rim. He’s still getting his legs under him a little bit,” Vogel said. “But still had 19 and 9, and great performance. Good start.”

Horton-Tucker proved in limited exposure in the Lakers’ series with the Rockets last postseason that he could provide positive minutes (after showing the same in extended time with the Lakers’ G-League team), and while Friday’s preseason opener didn’t change that view, the Lakers still have a crowded projected rotation.

“Somehow, hopefully I’ll be able to play,” Horton-Tucker said. “I take my time every day and just continue to do what they tell me. Hopefully it pays off.”