Talen Horton-Tucker ranks among the most disappointing parts of last season. The Lakers’ fourth-highest-paid player found himself demoted at various points and his development hit not just a speed bump but more of a brick wall. Thing is: He’s not solely to blame for any of that. The Lakers, frankly, put him in position to fail.
So, as they have just hired a first-time head coach in Darvin Ham, they’ll need to offer up a situation that allows him to be successful — basically the opposite of what they did with Horton-Tucker last year.
This week in the “Lakers Lounge,” I tried to introduce my new co-host for the show but was instead trampled by
a roaming giraffe Harrison Faigen. After explaining the mixup, he and I decided to carry out the rest of the pod.
Before we could get to the concept of developing a head coach, we had to also touch on the fact that, uh, the Lakers have still yet to officially announce said head coach. We gave our theories on what’s going on and explained why past experiences have us a little more nervous than we’d like to be about this.
From there, we dove into the aforementioned topic of helping Ham as much as they can and, oddly enough, the same reason Horton-Tucker struggled last season will have to be addressed to help make Ham’s job as easy as possible. Yep, you guessed it, more Russell Westbrook talk!
Even aside from the consistently clunky Horton-Tucker, Westbrook combination, the Lakers set borderline impossible expectations on THT as soon as they presented both through leaks and in Rob Pelinka’s own words that it came down to choice between him and Alex Caruso. From there on, Horton-Tucker would be viewed through the unfair prism of trying to live up to everything the Lakers missed in not having Caruso on top of expectations of his own growth on the court.
Said growth was only made more difficult as the Lakers expected him to fill a three-and-defense role he’s never shown any real proclivity for alongside ball-dominant players like Westbrook and LeBron James. If you’re expecting the world from an unproven player, you have to put that player in a situation to showcase why you’d place those expectations — something, again, they failed miserably to do.
Ham will be stepping into a situation with an aging LeBron James and oft-injured Anthony Davis where he’s expected to turn a team that won 33 games last season into a title contender. On top of all that, should we believe various reports that the Lakers plan on bringing back Westbrook, Ham will have to do so with almost no avenues to fix an absolutely horrific roster.
So Ham will have to convince Davis to commit to playing a more modern version of the center position, figure out how either to make Westbrook work off the ball or get James to give up some of those responsibilities and morph into a version of himself he hasn’t wanted to really ever and, oh yeah, somehow develop Horton-Tucker back to at least where he was heading into last year all while playing catch-up on what promises to be yet another absolutely brutal Western Conference.
You know, on second thought, maybe it makes sense that Ham is taking his time on signing that dotted line.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.