Western Notes: THT, K. George, Kings, Booker, Pokusevski

After letting several players battle for the role in training camp and preseason, the Jazz made Talen Horton-Tucker their starting point guard on Wednesday. According to Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune, head coach Will Hardy explained that a domino effect related to two other starters was a major factor in the decision.

“Talen pairs well with Jordan (Clarkson). Jordan is very much a good pairing with Lauri (Markkanen), because he provides a second threat offensively, a second ball-handler, a second play-maker, a second focal point of the offense,” Hardy said. “When we made the determination that Jordan was going to play with Lauri, Talen was the best fit to play with Jordan.”

As Larsen notes, of the players on Utah’s current roster, No. 16 overall pick Keyonte George is the best bet to be the point guard of the future. George had a solid debut, scoring eight points on 3-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes (Horton-Tucker had eight points on 3-of-9 shooting in 22 minutes), but Hardy isn’t ready to throw the rookie in the deep end by starting him and playing him heavy minutes.

“I think that Keyonte is a good player. I think we have high expectations for Keyonte and his future,” the Jazz coach said. “But in no way are we going into these games just saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to play Keyonte to play Keyonte.’ I thought he was reading the game well, he made some really good decisions. He made some great passes to shots that didn’t go in. But, I thought that in the flow of the game, he had a good thing going.”

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Kings were the feel-good story of 2022/23, winning 48 games and snapping a 16-season playoff drought, but head coach Mike Brown isn’t satisfied with their achievements, telling the team entering this season that “good is the enemy of great,” as Anthony Slater and Sam Amick of The Athletic detail in an in-depth piece on the team’s desire to reach the next level. “I feel like he’s erased everything we did last year from his memory, from our memory,” Domantas Sabonis said of Brown. “He only brings up that we lost against the Warriors (in the round of the playoffs). He’s definitely pushing us harder, and I love it. It’s fair. That happens usually (where) guys get complacent or think, ‘Oh, whatever we did last year.’ But if we don’t do all the little details, nothing’s going to change, you know?”
  • Suns guard Devin Booker missed Thursday’s game due to what has been diagnosed as a left mid-foot sprain, according to TNT’s Jared Greenberg (Twitter link), who says the injury occurred during Tuesday’s win over Golden State. Booker will undergo an MRI upon returning to Phoenix and is aiming to return to the court on Tuesday vs. San Antonio, a team source tells Greenberg.
  • When the Thunder announced on September 20 that Aleksej Pokusevski had sprained his right ankle in a workout, they said he would be reevaluated in six weeks. However, Pokusevski was active for the team’s regular season opener on Wednesday, beating a recovery timeline that would’ve sidelined him until November, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The fourth-year forward may not be part of Oklahoma City’s regular rotation at this point though — he only played two minutes of garbage time in Wednesday’s victory over Chicago.