After being taken in the second round of 2006 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors, there was no guarantee P.J.Tucker would make the regular season roster, let alone a noticeable impact on his new team. But after 17 games in Toronto, a demotion to the developmental league and his eventual release, Tucker wandered the globe in his quest to make it back to the big leagues.
Since he was handed his walking papers, the 6-foot-6, 224-pound forward saw tremendous success playing overseas as he was the league MVP in Israel, the scoring coring champ in the Ukraine and the Finals MVP in Germany. He also suited up for teams in Italy, Puerto Rico and Greece.
But now, after accepting a contact for half of the salary he would have made overseas to join the Phoenix Suns, the forward from Texas has finally made it back the NBA. But to Tucker, it wasn't about just getting back, it was about making an impact.
"I wouldn't say it was a storyboard but a journey," Tucker told Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo on his playing time overseas. "Once I got comfortable [in Europe] and became a pretty big player in Europe I wasn't expecting to come back [to the NBA]. I wasn't really looking to come back. Everyone wanted me at camp and stuff but for me is was just about being comfortable with coming back to a team that I was actually going to contribute and be able to work and show what I could do."
When asked what is was like the moment he found out he made the team, thus punching his ticket back to the NBA, Tucker said although he had a feeling he was going to make the Suns roster it was still surreal for him and his family once it was made official.
"It definitely felt good to actually be back," said Tucker. "I think my family was a little happier than I was for me to be back and knowing everything I've been through to get back was definitely a good feeling."
When asked what it was like to go from being the superstar in Europe to a role player in the NBA, Tucker said he knew entering training camp what the Suns expected of him and he was more than happy to deliver.
"In Europe I'm more of the go-to-guy, the scorer. On the Suns I'm more of an energy guy, defensive player, finishing plays," said Tucker. "So it's just what you're comfortable with and for me if I was going to come back it would to a situation where I could contribute and work my way into a position where I could play."
Tucker was initially used for defensive support but has since shown he is capable of stepping up on offense when needed. He is averaging nearly 12 points a game when he is given at least 20 minutes of play.
"I've never been surprised about my abilities or what I can do," said Tucker. "I know for people to come out of nowhere but for the players that have known me for years, they always felt I could do this."