Lakers News: Dennis Schroder's Comfort Level, Talen Horton-Tucker's Poise, More

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2021

Lakers News: Dennis Schroder's Comfort Level, Talen Horton-Tucker's Poise, More

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    The defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers played their 12th game of the 2020-21 season on Tuesday night.

    They punctuated it by collecting their sixth double-digit victory of the young campaign.

    The Purple and Gold are a hardwood powerhouse, and there are reasons to think their best is yet to come.

    It should be no surprise, then, that the team's latest batch of news reports is full of optimism and praise.

Dennis Schroder Still Getting Comfortable

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    The Lakers made several roster adjustments this offseason, but the move to acquire Dennis Schroder may have been their most aggressive.

    Coveting extra playmaking and a jolt of perimeter offense, L.A. acquired him from the Oklahoma City Thunder for the not insignificant cost of Danny Green and a first-round pick. While Schroder hasn't exactly exploded out of the gate—a pair of 20-plus-point performances notwithstanding—the eighth-year guard says his best is yet to come.

    "I still need a couple more games I believe to get more settled and comfortable around my teammates," Schroder told reporters. "We've got a great group of guys, but I'm still trying to find my way and finding the best way to help my team win. I just need a couple more games."

    The Lakers have the league's second-best defense, but their seventh-ranked offense has a little room to grow (as scary as that sounds for the other 29 teams). That's where Schroder can make his biggest mark. A Sixth Man of the Year finalist in 2019-20, Schroder paired his second-highest scoring average (18.9) with career-best shooting rates from the field (46.9) and from three (38.5) last season.

    He's averaging 14.2 points on 43.7/37.5/77.4 shooting so far, so the Lakers haven't seen him at optimal form just yet.

LeBron James Praises Talen Horton-Tucker

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    The transition from second-round rookie afterthought to sophomore rotation mainstay shouldn't look as smooth as Talen Horton-Tucker is making it appear.

    LeBron James offered his thoughts on why that's been the case for L.A.'s second-year scoring guard.

    "He just listens; he's a sponge," James told reporters. "Whatever you say to him, he's going to apply it. He's going to accept it first, then he's going to apply it right away. There's not that many young guys that can take something on the fly and then make it happen the very next play. ... He's beyond his years."

    Horton-Tucker, who turned 20 in November, has appeared in 11 of the Lakers' 12 games and logged at least 20 minutes in six of them. That included his breakout performance on Sunday, when he tallied 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting (2-of-3 from distance), five rebounds, four steals and three assists in 21 minutes of action.

Wes Matthews Says Frank Vogel Is 'Best Communicator' He's Had

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The responsibility list for an NBA head coach is exhaustive. Perhaps chief among the many tasks, though, is communication.

    That's especially true for a skipper like Frank Vogel, who might have more rotation options than available minutes. Building rotations in that light is tricky, and that's before factoring in the significant win-now pressure facing the defending champs.

    But there hasn't been even a hint of discontent about roles, minutes or shot attempts this season. Newcomer Wes Matthews credits that to Vogel's ability to be direct and upfront with his players:

    "He's probably the best communicator as a coach that I've had in this early season.

    "He communicates very well about whatever is going on in his mind, whatever he's thinking, so that gives you comfort. When you know when you're coming in, when you're coming out, you can start mentally preparing yourself, you can get ready, you can start watching the game a little bit differently. He's a great communicator so far with me, and that's really helped my curve here."

    The Lakers have so much star power and so many personalities that, despite all the attention on this team, Vogel's impact probably hasn't been discussed enough. But sometimes when a coach stays out of the news it's a testament to how well he's doing on the job.

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