Three weeks after finishing the 2013-14 NBA regular season, and two months before he got a new three-year, $16.5 million contract, Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker was arrested by Scottsdale, Ariz., police for "super extreme DUI," according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.
The legal blood alcohol content limit is .08. A driving-under-the-influence violation is considered "super extreme" in Arizona if the violator's blood alcohol level tops .20. (There's an intermediate crime — "extreme DUI" — for offenders whose blood alcohol level falls between .15 and .20.) Coro reported Monday night that Tucker blew a .201 "on a preliminary breath test in the field on May 10, according to Scottsdale police," and that analysis of a blood test administered after Tucker was arrested and taken to jail "showed his blood alcohol-content to be .222, according to the police report."
That, obviously, is a remarkably high number, and according to the police reports, Tucker's appearance and behavior seemed consistent with that:
A Scottsdale police officer reported spotting Tucker, 29, driving his 2011 Mercedes-Benz slowly through a stop sign at North Buckboard Trail and East Camelback Road, near a popular downtown Scottsdale nightlife area. According to the report, the vehicle ran that stop sign northbound at about 12:30 a.m., turned wide left into the right lane on westbound Camelback and turned wide again while straddling two lanes on northbound Scottsdale Road before the officer pulled the vehicle over.
Tucker had "thick and slurred" speech and "watery and bloodshot" eyes, according to the report, and the officer detected a "powerful" alcohol odor as he interviewed Tucker. Tucker told the officer that he was coming from the W Scottsdale Hotel, where he had one beer. During a walk-and-turn test, Tucker stumbled to the side and caught himself on a construction fence, the report stated.
Coro reports that the Suns "were aware of the charges before signing Tucker to his deal," adding an interesting and somewhat curious wrinkle to the negotiations with and retention of a player often lauded for his hustle, on-court leadership, locker-room tone-setting and vaunted veteran presence.
"We are aware of the situation but won't comment until the case is resolved in court," a Suns spokesman told Phoenix ABC affiliate KNXV on Monday.
All told, Tucker faces four counts of driving under the influence, with the "super extreme DUI" packing the stiffest potential penalty.
"While this crime is still a misdemeanor, it carries a minimum jail term that is greater than most first time felonies," writes Arizona attorney Lawrence Koplow.
If convicted of the "super extreme" charge, Tucker faces a minimum of 45 days in jail, plus a mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on his car for no less than 18 months. There's also, of course, the potential for additional punishment from either the Suns or the NBA depending upon the resolution of the legal process. Then-Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd last fall received a two-game suspension for pleading guilty to driving while impaired while he was a player employed by the New York Knicks. Former Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks forward Devin Ebanks also received a two-game suspension last fall for pleading no contest in a case stemming from a 2012 DUI charge.
A second-round draft pick out of Texas in the 2006 NBA draft, Tucker played one season with the Toronto Raptors before heading overseas to ply his trade in Israel, Ukraine, Greece, Italy and Germany, before returning to the U.S. prior to the 2012-13 season and inking a two-year, veteran's-minimum deal to join the Suns. He became an integral part of a Suns team that was a surprise playoff contender last season, making 81 starts at small forward and contributing 9.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game while hitting 38.7 percent of his 3-pointers, primarily from the short corners.
The 6-foot-6 grinder has become a fan favorite over two years in the desert for his defensive commitment and hustle. It will be interesting to see if the now-pervasive attachment of the phrase "super extreme DUI" to his name will do anything to change that.
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