Milwaukee Bucks: Getting to know veteran forward P.J. Tucker

Feb 9, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA (Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports)
Feb 9, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA (Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports) /
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TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 24: (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 24: (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Diving into P.J. Tucker’s humble beginnings before coming to the Milwaukee Bucks

Tucker’ star turn over his junior season gave him the launching pad to the NBA as he was selected by the Toronto Raptors with the 35th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. But as he later told Marc Spears of The Undefeated, Tucker was far from prepared for what was to come upon arriving in Toronto and entering the NBA, especially after having been a college star:

"“That was one of the worst years of my life,” Tucker said. “You come from the college, you’re the man. I was second-team All-American. I got drafted by Toronto, but they just took me because I was the best man on the board. They didn’t need me. I didn’t get a whole lot of help or guidance… I wasn’t playing. I couldn’t get reps in practice. And it’s big-boy basketball. Grown men. You had guys feeding their families. I’m thinking I’m all-world, and that is how every college guy thinks that coming in. You feel like you’re better than anybody. But I didn’t know what it meant to be a pro.”"

Tucker’s rookie season with the Raptors was limited to 83 total minutes over 17 appearances as well as a couple of stints in the then-D-League. Before the end of the 2006-07 season, Tucker was waived by the Raptors. After trying to garner a look from an NBA team while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 Summer League, Tucker tried his hand overseas to find his calling again.

That set off a five-year journey for Tucker as he logged stops in Israel, Ukraine, Greece, Italy, Puerto Rico and Germany. Along the way, Tucker won domestic league championships during his stints with Hapoel Holon and Brose Bamberg, earned multiple All-Star appearances and was even named MVP with Hapoel Holon and earned a Finals MVP award with Brose Bamberg.

With consistent playing time, earning good money and plenty of success, Tucker was content with riding it out in Europe where he established himself as one of the best players not in the NBA. From that aforementioned piece by Spears:

"“I was done, man. I was done fighting, trying to prove myself,” Tucker said. “I made my way overseas. I got successful. I signed a two-year deal in Russia for all the money. I made my name over there. I was comfortable with it. … I got tired all of the stories about, ‘He is a tweener. He doesn’t have a position.’ I knew I could play. I played hard. I played both ends of the court. I know what I could do. “Coming back? I’d rather be the man in Europe and win that respect. I’d rather be here than be the last man on the bench in the NBA and never have a chance. That was a decision I had made.”"

However, the allure of returning back to the NBA was never greater than in the summer of 2012 where Tucker eventually latched on to the Phoenix Suns for Summer League. With an NBA out included in his contract with Spartak St. Petersburg, Tucker decided to take the gamble and take a training camp invite going into the Suns’ 2012-13 season.

From there, Tucker never looked back as he quickly secured his spot on the Suns’ opening night roster and eventually became a regular in their starting lineup in what was a down season for the organization. And he would only further prove himself to be a valuable NBA role player in the years to come.