PJ Tucker couldn’t be happier with his NBA experience.
The Rockets forward has become a vital piece to Houston’s success over the past two years and the unconventional forward says guarding some of the best offensive talent in basketball is a “dream.”
“Everybody dreams about scoring 30, getting the game-winner. No, no, no, not me,” Tucker told The Undefeated. “I love my role. I love what I do. It sounds crazy, but this is my dream. I’m living my dream right now guarding Kevin Durant in the NBA playoffs.”
“I got the utmost respect for Kevin. I take pride in it. This is something I want to do. I can’t wait to guard Kevin Durant. Nobody wants to guard Kevin Durant.”
Durant is averaging 35.6 points per game in this year’s playoffs and is considered one of the most talented scorers ever. Tucker, however, welcomes the challenge. The 6-5 wing has been tasked with defending guards, forwards and even centers throughout 2018-19.
Being a “tweener” used to be considered a weakness, but today’s NBA is just the place for Tucker’s versatility and skillset.
“I knew that defense was my way, but that is where I learned to enjoy it and saw how much of an effect it could have on games,” Tucker said. “You can really change games that way.”
Tucker entered the 2006 NBA Draft as a second-team All-American and was selected by the Raptors with the 35th overall pick. He was an undersized post player with high expectations for himself but couldn’t earn playing time. After averaging just 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds during his rookie campaign, Tucker took a five-year hiatus from the NBA and played overseas.
“It was tough being away from home,” Tucker said. “You have to learn how to play over there. Over there, it ain’t dropping 30 every night and being the man. Most of the guys who think like that don’t last over there. They care about winning over there. If you’re a winner, you can play forever over there.”
Tucker returned to the NBA in 2012 and played 79 games for the Suns that season, carving out a role for himself in the NBA for years to come.
Tucker has played in all 82 games for the Rockets in two consecutive seasons and Houston was just one win away from reaching the NBA Finals in 2017-18.
The gritty defender didn’t even attempt a 3-pointer as a rookie, but has evolved into one of the league’s better threats from the corners.
Defense, however, still remains Tucker’s calling card.
“I’m still persevering through to make it so guys that are like me can have that lane to say, ‘I can do it,’ ” Tucker said.
The Rockets will face the Warriors in Game 4 of their second-round series Monday. They enter the matchup trailing 2-1 in the series.