Getting Ready for the Playoffs

 

Alando Tucker played 25 minutes and scored 10 points in the Suns win over the Blazers on Wednesday.
(NBAE Photos)

To be honest, I was getting a little winded towards the end after playing the whole second half, but it just felt so good to be out there, I didn’t even think about taking a breather. That’s what you work all season for, opportunities like that. All in all, I felt like I could’ve played a lot better, but I know I played hard and I know there are some adjustments I’ll be looking to make. It was also nice getting the chance to show some of the adjustments I have made throughout the course of this rookie season. I played some good perimeter defense against both their point guards and power forwards and was glad I got to show some versatility on that end of the floor. Offensively, I think I did exactly what the coaches are looking for, using a couple of dribbles to get into the lane and if need be, kick it out to a teammate for an open shot.

We’ve had some fun today ribbing Brian Skinner about his ejection. He’s been told if he gets kicked out of another game, he’ll have to shave the beard to shed his image. Some of the guys even offered to sign him up for anger management classes. All kidding aside, it was unfortunate seeing Brian ejected last night, but he’s having fun with it.

Although we were minus Brian, it was great being out there with DJ Strawberry, Sean Marks and all the guys I’ve been practicing with this season. Still, you’re definitely not going to hear me complaining if I’m on the court with anyone on this team. The key is to just be out there playing hard, and I love any opportunity I receive.
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Thoughts on Shaquille O'Neal, D-League and More

Alando Tucker travels to play for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds again this week to continue progressing in his game. 

(NBAE Photos)

I’m going to start by discussing the topic everybody has obviously been asking about – the arrival of Shaquille O’Neal. I was driving in my car listening to the radio when I first found out about the trade. Fans were discussing their opinions on what it would be like to have O’Neal in Phoenix, and I thought they were just responding to a rumor. A couple of teammates ended up telling me that it was actually the real deal. To be honest, my emotions were kind of mixed. Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks were both good teammates and good guys, but at the same time I was really looking forward to playing with a teammate I grew up watching in O’Neal. I also thought about how excited the city was going to be and that really helped in me getting excited also. While my emotions were mixed, everybody told me I had the right attitude as it was going to be important for us to look forward as we continue to work towards our ultimate goal of winning a championship.

I have been watching Shaq and have been a big fan since his days in Orlando – back when he was what I call “Thin Shaq.” He was agile, breaking rims and has really showed a lot of the same here. You obviously saw that if you watched the San Antonio game on Sunday.

Being a communications major also played a big part in why O’Neal was one of my favorite players growing up. He always seemed so prepared for his interviews, which is something a lot of people take for granted. He’s always ready, he’s always got a joke and I’ve learned that he really prepares for interviews. And I think that’s big. [Read more...]

Returning to Phoenix

Well, I’m back in Phoenix after a couple of weeks in Albuquerque playing for the D-League Thunderbirds. It was definitely time well spent, and I think I was able to show guys like President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Steve Kerr I was working on exactly what they had asked.

Alando Tucker used his time to study and practice the game while in Albuquerque. 

(NBAE Photos)

At the beginning of the season, Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin told me this was an option for the team, and they were probably going to take advantage of that. DJ Strawberry and I knew coming in with all the great players and All-Stars here we weren’t going to be getting a ton of playing time, so it never came across as being a demotion and they reminded us of that. They wanted to ensure we stay in shape because coming down the stretch of the regular season, it would be nice for the coaching staff to be more familiar with what we can do and see how they can use us.

Kerr and Assistant General Manager Vinny Del Negro let me know exactly when I was being sent a few weeks ago. Again, because it was pretty much scheduled, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. Heading to Albuquerque, I wanted to work on my mechanics like I always do, but it was also important to stay in game shape and to make game decisions you can’t make during practice or by watching the team play. That’s what makes the D-League such a great option, it allows a guy like me to continue playing and continue learning.

My coach with the Thunderbirds was Jeff Ruland. He definitely had more of a military-based style than Suns Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, but I think in his position he kind of has to. He’s working with guys trying to get to the NBA level, and you need to shape them so they’re ready for the professional level. The important thing was the fact he understands the game, and I respected his knowledge of the game. He knows both ends of the floor and exactly what everybody at every position should be doing.

I roomed with Darvin Ham who spent some time in his career with both the Bucks and Pacers. He’s also a guy who won a championship ring in Detroit, so I definitely picked his brain as much as possible. Darvin was never drafted, so he took a road in which he had to work very hard and had to constantly keep a strong mindset. He got himself signed and played a lot of important minutes with some important teams. He’s really a great guy and helped me a lot while I was down there. Darvin and I watched all the Suns games and talked about a lot of different things. Darvin remembered the style of play as very hard to guard and said players knew coming into a contest against the Suns they were in for a long night. They force you to have an offensive mindset regardless of how talented you are on the defensive end of the court.

As a whole, I gained a lot of respect for the D-League through the experience and especially the guys that are playing there. Those guys – including the coaches – work hard and earn everything they get. Sometimes they bus 10 hours just to get from one city to another, so it’s not like they live a high-profile life but they continue to work hard. It helped a lot being in Albuquerque in terms of getting back into a rhythm and gaining some confidence. Getting the D-League Performer of the Week Award was very cool but most important to me was getting back into game shape as a whole.

DJ has joined the team now and my only advice to him is to keep working. Darvin and I spent a lot of time either watching games or going to the gym, so I let DJ know before he left to just stay focused and improve what he feels he can to help this team.

Season is Flying By for Tucker

We’re a couple of weeks into the season now and everything’s moving pretty fast. It feels like it was just preseason for us. It might be because I’m a young guy trying to get adjusted to everything, but it just seems like everything is flying by.

Alando Tucker is learning from some of the best in his rookie year on the Suns. 

(NBAE Photos)

I love it though. The last road trip we had, going four games in five days, it was nice and I got to visit some arenas for the first time.

I’m really just soaking everything up and taking in everything the guys around me are doing. Especially on the road trip, I made sure to study how guys go about their day-to-day business. Everything – before, during and after the game, especially on nights where we have back-to-back contests. It’s all about getting to learn.

I do have to explain to people that it’s okay not to be thrown right into the mix and that this is an experience which is better for me in the long run. Not everyone can say they came into the league to play for a championship-caliber team. I understand the goal of this team isn’t to qualify for the playoffs or reach the Western Conference Finals – it’s to win an NBA Championship. It is a privilege to be with a team you know is going to be successful and its great playing with these players and working with Mike D’Antoni and the coaching staff. I didn’t come to this team because they needed a guy to score points and I definitely understand that. Once I explain that to people, they seem to understand too.

When Kobe Bryant first came into the league he also came to a team fighting for a championship. He didn’t get the opportunity to play early but you can see now how much he learned from that experience. He used that time as a young player to learn from the veterans on his team and it’s paid off.

I’m definitely taking my time and not rushing into anything as far as getting on the court. I’m learning and that’s something which is going to be important for me. I’ve got guys like Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Raja Bell around me and I’m going to take advantage of that. They’ve been doing this for years now and I just want to soak up as much as possible so I can execute when my name is called. I’ve also been watching Amaré Stoudemire a lot and it’s been great seeing him get back to the court and throw down some monster jams.

Last night was the Celebrity Waiters event for me and the guys and that was big for me. This team gets a lot of support from this city and last night was a reminder of that. I had a smile on my face the whole night and it was great interacting with people that were happy to see us. Talking with fans and knowing it’s going to a good cause like Suns Nite Hoops – that’s what I’m all about. It was great traveling to China with Steve Nash for his charity game over the summer and last night was another great chance to help give to those less fortunate.

It’s time for me to hit the court for warm-ups and get ready for a late contest against the Chicago Bulls. Thanks again for all the great comments and I’ll be sure to check back in again soon.

Camp is Over Already?!

I guess I should start this entry by talking about my rookie initiation during the team dinner on Thursday night. It was my first time going through something like that. Even as a freshman in college, I didn’t go through a hazing process.

 

The Suns rookies enjoy a night of hazing.
(Dan Banks/Suns Photos)
 

You probably saw the video on Suns.com of DJ Strawberry, Doug Thomas and I singing for the rest of the guys. I’ve gotten so many calls from people who have watched it and seen the pictures up on the website. People will call and the first thing they’ll say is, “I’m so pretty,” so I’ll know they’ve seen it.

We had heard the vets were going to ask us to sing, so we went to the hotel after practice and before dinner to rehearse what we’d be doing. But that sort of backfired on us. I don’t think Steve Nash and the coaches appreciated us being so prepared, which is why they then made us run around the restaurant, dancing pretty and barking like dogs. They said we shouldn’t have gotten rehearsal time, so they switched it up on us.

It was a lot of fun, though. We actually enjoyed it and it helped remove some of those rookie jitters.

The scrimmage game went really well on Saturday night. It was the first time I was able to perform in front of a crowd with my new teammates and it meant a lot to me. It was exciting, the fans really made it with their enthusiasm. Players really ride that enthusiasm and it was great having the fans behind us and being able to ride that momentum.

Getting to put on that jersey and knowing I was going out there to play a “competitive” game meant everything to me. It’s always been my dream to play in the NBA. I come from a small town, so for me to be able to represent Lockport, Ill. meant a lot. I’ve got a lot of people behind me and know when I wear that Suns jersey I’m not only representing my team but a lot of people who care for me. Knowing that the jersey I’m wearing is for a team that has a lot of camaraderie and respect for one another just made the feeling that much better.

It was a pretty good game overall. We were getting up and down the floor. I was able to go out there and provide a spark, and tried not to do more than the coaches had asked of me.

There were some highlights in the game. Sean Marks had a big block, Doug Thomas had an impressive dunk, Steve Nash hit a couple threes, Shawn Marion did a great job getting up and down the court, Grant Hill played extremely well… those are a few of the things I noticed while watching. This team is definitely going to keep fans on their feet this upcoming season.

The biggest thing that surprised me was how fast training camp went. It seems like yesterday I was coming in for my first day and wondering how fast I would begin picking things up. But the coaches and my teammates have helped make things so easy and that’s important. I think I made some accomplishments this past week in terms of building relationships and working on my game, and I think that’s going to go a long way this season.

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Let's Get it Started

Today was my first official day on the job. Everybody’s been asking me how it feels to be a member of the Phoenix Suns and now I can actually tell them. It feels really, really good.

 

We had our media day this afternoon before taking a bus down to Tucson, and I got a chance to put on my new Suns jersey for some pictures. It fits great, nice and snug. Actually, this is the first time that I’ve ever had a name on my back. As a kid, you always look forward to having your name on a jersey, but when I got to Wisconsin, they didn’t do that. They only had numbers. So that was really exciting today, and it’s definitely an honor to wear a Suns jersey.

Everything’s moved so fast the last few months, I haven’t really had time to sit back and reflect on all that’s happened. Right after the draft, it was off to Las Vegas for summer league, which was fun. Being able to play with DJ and Marcus Banks, two guys that I knew were going to be on the team this year, was cool. Banks, he’s a character, man. He’s one of those guys who’s always cracking jokes.

I then went to Vancouver for Steve Nash’s charity game. It was exciting because it was the first time I actually stepped on the court with him, and he was throwing me lob passes for dunks. It was amazing. I also got to meet Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa, and see what kind of people they are. They were all really welcoming, which helped me feel more comfortable. And seeing their games up close and personal was also reassuring for me that I’m in the right place.

I also traveled with Steve and LB to Beijing a couple weeks ago for the Nash-Yao Ming charity game, which was a lot of fun. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, and China is one of the places I’ve wanted to go. Being able to experience that culture and go to the Forbidden City was incredible. Those are some mental pictures that I’ll carry with me forever.

Beijing is a very modernized city. There are a lot of people there. Traffic is heavy. It looked a lot like L.A. actually. But it felt good to be able to go and help raise money for children there. The events raised $2.5 million, which will go to build something like 70 new schools. I love to give back to the community, so being a part of that was really special.

We have our first practice of camp tomorrow morning. I don’t know exactly what to expect, but some of the veterans have been telling me it’s going to go smooth. Coach D’Antoni is a good guy. He doesn’t want to make camp too intense, to the point where we’re hurting ourselves, but at the same time I’m sure we’ll work on a lot. I just want to try and gain as much as I can, as far as understanding the offense and defense, and the whole style. That’s my mindset going into camp. Wish me luck.