P.J. Tucker brings a needed defensive edge to the Suns and also wet fingertips (Getty Images)
On Wednesday, in a rather minor move, Phoenix Suns swingman P.J. Tucker was fined $5,000 by the NBA for his second flopping offense. The 28-year old forward has made a home in Phoenix as an incessantly-driven and active role player, attending to defense on one end and shooting nearly 40 percent from long range on the other end.
He’s far from an All-Star, though, which is why it was rumored that the Suns were in pursuit of Cleveland Cavaliers small forward Luol Deng, an All-Star in 2012 and 2013, prior to Thursday’s trade deadline. This is why a missed phone call from Suns general manager Ryan McDonough on Wednesday – only pitched in order to inform Tucker about his fine – caused P.J. a bit of consternation.
“I called P.J. and it went to voicemail,” McDonough said, in an interview with Greg Esposito of Suns.com. “I didn’t leave a message, I was just about to text him and ask him to call me back. P.J. called me back — it was about one o’clock [Wednesday] afternoon, so we were about 24 hours before the deadline — and I noticed P.J. was a little short of breath, breathing a little heavy. Then the light went on in my head. I said ‘P.J., we’re not trading you. That’s not what this call’s about.’ Then he said ‘Thank goodness, man. I love it here. I was so nervous.’
“I don’t think anybody’s ever been happier to be fined than P.J. Tucker was when I told him, ‘The good news is you’re not being traded, the bad news is that you are getting fined.’ And I think he was glad to pay the fine if he could stay here in Phoenix.”
It’s hard not to admire Tucker’s play in his third NBA season. At 28 years old, he doesn’t fit the typical profile of the third-year forward, mainly because he bounced around overseas between seven teams in six different countries after his rookie year in Toronto (that’s another country, as well) in 2006-07. That’s not even including a 2007 stint in the D-League.
So, ten teams since 2006? One can understand why Tucker – who has started all 53 games for the Suns so far this year – wouldn’t mind a little permanence.
Phoenix was one of the more active teams leading up to Thursday’s deadline, even if they didn’t pull the trigger on a big or even minor deal. What McDonough should have assuaged Tucker with was the fact that the Suns didn’t really need to part with any personnel in order to make an addition to the team’s surprising, 32-21 so far, rotation.
The team is nearly $5.5 million under the cap as it is, which meant the team had leeway to deal for a player making less than that amount and only send a conditional second round pick in return. On top of that flexibility, the team’s bevy of future first round picks and the presence of Emeka Okafor’s nearly $14.5 million (mostly paid for by insurance) expiring deal meant that the Suns could deal a series of contracts and picks that never would have even shared a locker room with Tucker.
McDonough declined to deal, preferring to hit home runs with those picks either via the draft or upcoming trade, looking for that franchise player to suit up alongside cornerstones like Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. That player may very well be a swingman, acquired to push Tucker back to the bench, but you get the feeling that the do-anything P.J. would be just fine with that, just as long as the Suns are winning, and he’s a part of the movement.
So, no – you’re not leaving Phoenix, P.J. Tucker. But do get out your checkbook, and quit with all the floppin’.
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