CAMDEN, N.J.–Philadelphia 76ers veteran PJ Tucker has seen a lot in his basketball career. A second-round pick of the 2006 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors, he spent one season in the NBA before going overseas for five seasons, and returning with the Phoenix Suns in 2012.
After his return, Tucker has become one of the scrappiest players in the league and he has become an elite corner 3-point shooter. He was a big difference maker with the Milwaukee Bucks to help them win a title in 2021 and he was also big help to the Miami Heat in 2022 as they pulled to within one win of the NBA finals.
In part 2 of his sit down with Sixers Wire, part 1 can be read here when he took a pop quiz on his career, Tucker opened up on his lack of scoring, Joel Embiid, his relationship with Sixers fans, and how he wants fans to remember him.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: How're you liking Philly so far?
PJ: It’s been cool, man, honestly. I actually thought this will be a lot colder and a lot worse winter, but the winter’s been alright. Our team’s growing, we’re getting better, I feel like we’re just building toward the end, but it’s been good. It’s been a good start.
Q: What has impressed you about Jo? You've played with superstars in this league. What stands out about his game?
PJ: Consistency, man. To be that good every single night even on the nights when you may not feel it. He still gets it going, man, and to be that dominant, that big, that dominant. Not a lot of people in the history of the game really do it in a way he does it. It’s amazing to see on a nightly basis.
Q: How would you describe his leadership style? I know he's not much of a talker.
PJ: He’s just going to do what he does and that’s all you can expect from a guy like that. To expect him to play like that and be the vocal leader and be the emotional leader, it’s like he does what he does and everybody else fills in their jobs behind and you can’t ask anything more
Q: Talk to me about your time overseas. Tell me about your experience and what helped you when you returned to the league?
PJ: It was great to play over there to be a leader, be a scorer, and everything. To be everything and to have guys come around you, especially in a country where that you end up building relationships with, lifelong relationships, and guys you start being around known forever for the rest of your life is pretty cool actually. To know I have friends in pretty much every country in Europe. So it’s kind of crazy over the years to build those kind of relationships.
Q: You still talk to those guys over there?
PJ: Yeah, I still talk to a few of them, but it’s even crazy like to play against guys over there and then they end up being in the league like Dennis Schroder, Omri Casspi, we played the championship game in Israel against each other in 2007, a few other guys, too. So it’s funny to be able to play these guys and then come here and be in the league.
Q: Your role on this team has never been about offense. Do you pay attention to criticism at all?
PJ: I get it every day! Walking the streets, people be like ‘Hey Tuck! You think you can score more and this, that, and the third’, but for me, man, if you look, I take maybe one or two shots per game. I don’t even shoot the ball a lot. So I don’t know how they want me to score a bunch of points if I don’t get the chance to shoot the ball, but to me, it’s definitely not about that.
The way we play, our style, some nights, you might get a few, some nights, you might not, but we based our group around Joel, around our defense. Everybody else is filling their spots and doing their job so it’s all about winning, man. Bringing that effort and energy every night and doing everything to get a win. I went through a lot of stuff this summer with my knee surgery so I actually didn’t get to work out like one time the entire summer. Training camp was the first time touching a basketball in over four months. So for me, it was a big difference in kind of a start-up to the season, but it’s been really good just been able to build off of that and get to where we’re at now and keep building so hopefully we get this strong finish going into the All-Star break.
Q: Are Philly fans getting on you a lot?
PJ: Oh, yeah! They be on me. They’ve been on me. I’ve told a couple of them, just take a look back to the playoffs last year. I’ll be back there in a second. They all laugh when I say that.
Q: Speaking of the playoffs last year, obviously, you played against this team last year. Were you ever thinking 'Man, I could fix some of their issues'?
PJ: As a player naturally, you kind of look at that. You always look at teams you feel like you can go to. Especially, knowing free agency’s coming up. You kind of clear up your mind in the playoffs, but even during the season, you play against teams. You see yourself, you know how you play, you’re honest with yourself. You know teams that you fit with and teams you don’t. So it makes it a lot easier being a veteran knowing that kind of stuff for sure.
Q: Does Jimmy Butler still tell you you're a traitor every day?
PJ (laughing): Nah! Nah. He got over it a little bit. Obviously, it still stings. It’s still kinda early, but I talked to Jimmy a lot. That’s my boy for life.
Q: When you retire, what's the one thing you want everybody to remember you for?
PJ: That I was a (expletive), man. I went out and played hard every single night. I did everything I could toward winning. I’m just a winning player. It’s all about winning.
Q: When you look at the young guys on the roster like Jaden Springer or Paul Reed, what's one of the biggest things you want to pass on to those guys?
PJ: Just the professionalism when you come to games. Being locked in, knowing your personnel, knowing the little things, the stuff that counts as being a pro. I think most young guys will come in the gym and get shots up, and work on their games, but to be a true pro, it’s the little things. Like I said, knowing your personnel. Knowing matchups, knowing the coverages, it’s that stuff that as soon as you sub in, you’re ready to go. That’s the stuff.