It’s a little known fact what is P.J. in P.J. Tucker stands for. That’s because Tucker’s real first name is Anthony: named after his dad. So why aren’t his initials A.J.?
His father, a baseball player, was known for the pop in his bat and thus got the moniker, Pop. That’s how the Suns forward wound up with the nickname Pops Jr., or P.J. for short.
It’s funny because pop is exactly what Tucker has provided the Suns off the bench all season long. His energy and effort have been a large reason why the Suns have made more comebacks this season than Brett Favre and Guns and Roses combined.
That effort is what Tucker loves most about basketball.
“I just like going out and playing,” he told the media after his team’s 111-108 comeback win over New Orleans on Friday. “I like to hustle. I like the little things. That’s what separate teams and separates players.”
While Tucker’s ability to do the little things and play great defense earned him the nickname “The Garbage Man” from this writer, it’s been his 3-point shooting the last two games that has impressed over the last two games. It may even earn him the new epithet: “The second coming of Dan Majerle.” Alright, maybe not.
“Dan doesn’t have to be worried about anything,” Tucker said laughing. “Thunder is the man.”
OK, so maybe it was a stretch. Tucker had never attempted a 3-pointer in his NBA career prior to last game. He managed to hit his first three of his career before missing one as the shot clock expired in the third quarter. The offensive outburst, which led to 15 points overall for the Suns swingman, was key in the Suns overtime win.
But why has Tucker’s long-range shooting changed so drastically in his return to the NBA? Some people may think it’s because defenders are cheating off of him to help their teammates. That is something he is more than willing to take advantage of.
“I love it,” he said to the media. “Cheat off me. I’m going to shoot it and knock it down.”
There may be another reason for his success though that has more to do with the way Tucker sees the rim than the way defenders see him. That’s because he had to have Lasik surgery early this year after being poked in the eye by a teammate during preseason. That accident may have been one of the best things to ever happen to him.
“I see everything better,” he said. “The greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life is LASIK. I should do a commercial I love it so much.
“It affected everything in my life. Not just basketball, not just work. Just being at home and not having to get up to look at something. I kind of laugh about it and say, ‘Oh, I can see that.’”
And Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry can see clearly how much Tucker has meant to his club early on.
“I can’t say enough about P.J. Tucker, he epitomizes what we want our entire team to be, really,” the coach told the media after his team’s 19-point comeback. “That is a hard, grind-it-out worker that never quits on any play. That rebound was tremendous at the end. I can’t say enough about him. I just think that he does such a great job. To have him on your team and to have him play like that night in and night out – and at practice too, he plays the same way in practice, I think is a credit to the professionalism he brings to our team.”
That’s right, Tucker brings the professionalism and effort that Gentry and the Suns need off the bench. He also has, as of late, brought the bonus 3-point accuracy like his assistant coach Majerle. Just don’t expect him to take another cue from the former Sun and open Tucker’s Sports Bar. He’s just happy being able to fit in and help the team by providing the team with pop. Fortunately, just happens to be the name that describes him, and his game.