NBA

John Collins and Taylor Horton-Tucker put on lousy performances in the Drew League

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John Collins

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John Collins
Photo: Getty Images

NBA stars have largely disappeared from the Rucker Park, Barry Farms and Drew League races of the past for which they regularly lace up. LeBron James’ 42 point show at the Drew League a week ago was a clarion call for his NBA peers. After two years of disruption by the pandemic, the Drew League is back on the radar of NBA stars of today and tomorrow.

The Drew League is no ordinary pro am. The bulk of the competition features former Division I collegiate hoopers or super-athletes who have had cups of coffee in the Association or abroad. When the NBAers walk through the door, they are chased. In the best-case scenario, an NBAer parachutes in, drops 40 like they’re supposed to, and is swarmed by approving fans, who probably can’t afford to see them play on the court in regular-season competition. Kobe did it in 2011 and made everyone forget that James Harden was even on the floor. You can’t be afraid of being humiliated, but the worst case scenario is that your reputation goes on a stretcher.

Tari Eason, who became the most underrated rookie of all scouts in 2022, stopped by to accumulates 37 points and 13 boards, including winning free throwsthen suggested he might just continue to fill in their statistics there for the rest of the summer. Sacramento Kings reserve Drew League regular Chimezie Metu had 25 points and 9 rebounds.

As great as they were, everyone packed the gym to watch Trae Young and John Collins on the Black Pearl Elite against Talen Horton-Tucker’s Citi Team Blazers. Young was solid. He showcased his lineup, finished with a few nifty switches under the ledge and avoided getting bumped into a pretzel by sick-handled guards looking to make a name for themselves. He eventually put up 22 points, but their opponents, the Citi Team Blazers, proved they weren’t here to be crushed.

Young got his shot crushed, Collins got teased, became the first NBA player to foul in the Drew League, got clowned around by the field announcer for it, and the Pearl Elite lost by two. It was a mixed bag for Young. For John Collins, it was a night he’ll probably shove into the dark corners of his memory bank, lock the safe, and pretend it never happened. It wasn’t a completely dodgy deal, but for an NBA player, it was poor.

In the end, it felt like Collins was doing a solid for his point guard by showing up to an exhibition game, catching a few lobsters, run a few laps on the field, sweat and experience the atmosphere of the Drew League. He’s not the kind of player who excels in this format anyway. It’s indoors, but the Drew League is your typical streetball hoops tournament where ballhandlers and snipers reign supreme.

That’s what made the Horton-Tucker struggles even harder to understand. His basketball rep has been hit harder than anyone else in the league in the past 12 months. A year ago, Horton-Tucker was every Laker fan’s underground candidate for the next star. In some people’s minds, he was meant to be to the Lakers what Jordan Poole was to the Warriors. However, in his third year, the 21-year-old has proven to be more of a myth than a man. He signed a three-year, $30 million extension in the 2012 offseason, and then, in 25 minutes per game, Horton-Tucker shot just 41.6 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from range in 60 matches.

He took that to the Drew League and finished with just 14 points, six rebounds and two steals. He gets killed on NBA Twitter for his 38% shooting from the field, but shooting percentages in streetball tournaments are worth nothing. Everyone in these tournaments takes misguided shots at high degrees of difficulty in an effort to put on a show for the fans, so that shouldn’t be stressed.

His 1-of-8 shooting and inability to drive with his left were par for the course, though, which made Lakers fans overly anxious dreading another season of Horton-Tucker’s stalled development. Hansel Emmanuel, who also played in the Drew League on Saturday, goes left as often as Horton-Tucker. But in a city where fans want to hug him, slip in and have a mid-term performance in a pro-am was a reminder of just how underwhelming he was in an underwhelming team.

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