Talen Horton-Tucker has some bragging rights heading into matchups vs. Lakers

How ’Bout This Jazz newsletter: The “tanking” team he’s on now has been better than the allegedly title-contending one that traded him. Plus, Lauri Markkanen gets early All-Star love, and some Halloween fun.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Talen Horton-Tucker (0) as the Utah Jazz host the Memphis Grizzlies, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.

It would be easy for Talen Horton-Tucker to be angry or bitter — there’s probably not a ton of NBA players who, given the choice, would willingly transplant from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City.

But he’s neither of those in the aftermath of the trade that saw the Lakers send him to the Jazz for Patrick Beverley.

“I was excited. I was like, ‘Man, I get the opportunity to start fresh and almost reinvent myself,’” he said right before the Jazz took off for their three-game road trip this week. “I was looking forward to it.”

Other than the awkwardness of being at the team facility when the deal happened, he explained there were no hard feelings about the trade, despite him appearing to be in L.A.’s longterm plans just a year ago.

Neither is there any need for a “revenge game” when the Jazz and Lakers face off in L.A. on Friday night. Heading into the matchup (the teams will meet again Monday in Utah), he’s got some bragging rights: the allegedly tanking Jazz are 6-3, while the supposedly title-chasing Lakers are 2-5.

THT said he still gets occasional text messages from LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, checking in on him, but that otherwise, he’s pretty much left his Lakers days behind.

Asked about the differences in approach between the franchises, he noted the Lakers tended toward short practices and long film sessions on account of having rosters dominated by older veterans, whereas these Jazz do the opposite because they’re mostly a young team — with him one of the youngest, despite being in his fourth season.

“I’m still 21 now — probably the same age as [some] rookies,” he said. “It’s kind of funny — everyone’s calling me the youngest vet ever.”

Meanwhile, there is one tie to his Lakers days that he’ll never leave behind: the championship ring he won as part of the Lakers squad that prevailed in the Orlando bubble in 2021.

“Oh, it’s in the safe. It’s not going nowhere,” Horton-Tucker said. “Here and there I go back and look at it, to give me a little bit of motivation.”

Lauri Markkanen, All-Star?

After the Jazz’s second consecutive victory over the Grizzlies on Monday, Lauri Markkanen’s performance was the talk of the team, and deservedly so, considering his 31-point, 11-rebound, four-block, two-steal performance in which he shot 11 of 15.

“There’s a lot more that he can do than I thought previously,” Mike Conley said. “Once we found that out in training camp, it was like we were trying to keep him a secret. But he’s starting to show the world who he is.”

Malik Beasley was even more outspoken.

“He’s an All-Star. I want him to get that this year,” Beasley said. “So we’ve got to make sure we continue winning and get him that ballot vote.”

OK, perhaps that’s a bit hyperbolic, considering how loaded the Western Conference is, and that, through nine games, The Finnisher is averaging 21.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. Still, with the 2023 All-Star Game coming to Salt Lake City, who knows?

Halloween highlights

Halloween is my favorite holiday, but considering how often it conflicts with the Jazz’s schedule, it can be hard to celebrate. So with the Jazz hosting a game on Oct. 31 this year, the wheels got turning.

Knowing at least some players would show up to the arena in costume, myself and Sarah Todd of the Deseret News spearheaded an effort to get some of the beat writers to do so, too.

Both my Trib coverage partner, Andy Larsen, and KSL’s Ryan Miller were leery and noncommittal, invoking that time a bunch of years ago that all the beat writers promised to dress up — only for then-Tribune writer Kyle Goon to be the only one who actually did.

Not happening on my watch.

I showed up as my favorite musician, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. Sarah came dressed as a Slytherin student from Hogwarts (and, given her platinum hair, looking very much like a relative of Draco Malfoy). Andy brought along a reindeer-themed sweater featuring a hoodie with antlers, plus a tail on the back, though he kinda chickened out a bit and wore it only for a few minutes, claiming to be “too hot.” And Ryan did not make it due to his wife’s unexpected illness, depriving us of seeing his unicorn onesie.

It was a ton of fun interacting with the Jazz personnel. I kept my sunglasses on and my fake cigarette dangling from my mouth throughout, to the delight of Jazz podcaster J.P. Chunga and to the good-natured consternation of coach Will Hardy. After his postgame news conference, he said to me, “Asking the question with the cigarette still in the mouth — very distracting,” which made me laugh.

CEO Danny Ainge had no idea who I was supposed to be, even after I explained it to him. However, Clarkson, who dominated the weekend with a pair of costume tributes to filmmaker Tim Burton, in the form of Edward Scissorhands and Jack Skellington, gave me the ultimate stamp of approval: “That’s tight, bro! You [expletive] killed it!”