Sunday, January 23 2022
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Talen Horton-Tucker, who has yet to play for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, is listed as probable for Sunday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs. Horton-Tucker has been recovering from preseason surgery to repair torn ligaments in his thumb, but he is now on track to make his season debut at a moment in which the Lakers need all of the help they can get. 

On Friday, the Lakers lost a game to the Minnesota Timberwolves in which they were outscored by 28 points in the third quarter alone. The defeat dropped Los Angeles to 7-6 on the season despite one of the easiest schedules in the NBA. Their struggles have, in part, been the result of injuries across the entire roster. LeBron James has played in only six games. Kendrick Nunn and Trevor Ariza have not played at all. Avery Bradley is questionable for Sunday with a sprained ankle, Austin Reaves is dealing with a hamstring injury and Anthony Davis has played through illness and a thumb issue of his own recently. The depleted Lakers simply need healthy bodies at the moment.

They hope that Horton-Tucker can be much more than that, though. The Lakers made an enormous bet on him this season. The Lakers have three players making the maximum salary and 10 making the minimum. Horton-Tucker is one of only two players on the roster in between those two extremes. The three-year, $31 million deal he signed this offseason made him the fourth-highest-paid player on the team despite appearing in only 71 games as a professional thus far. 

Teams intent on competing for championships tend to prefer proven commodities, but Horton-Tucker has flashed impressive upside in his short career. While he struggles as a shooter, his length, strength and ball-handling have made him a strong driver that was among the NBA’s best finishers at the rim last season. The team expects some of those traits to translate defensively. With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso gone, the Lakers need someone to guard top opposing wings. Ideally, that player will be Horton-Tucker. 

With James still out and the team struggling without him, the Lakers are counting on Horton-Tucker to help turn things around. It’s a lot to ask of a player with so little NBA experience, but the Lakers showed their belief in Horton-Tucker with the contract they gave him this summer. On Sunday, we’ll likely get our first glimpse into whether or not he can live up to it. 

Source: CBSSports.com

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