Tucker knew that going negative would never take him anywhere.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
A lot of professional athletes catch a bad rap for not appreciating where they came from and what they’re doing. Those athletes aren’t Alando Tucker. Despite all the excuses in the world to turn negative while growing up, Tucker refrained. Now after not having the option his contract picked up by the Suns and receiving very little playing time, the former Big Ten Player of the Year still remains positive that brighter days lie ahead in his latest blog.
At the end of last season I talked with (Coach) Alvin (Gentry) and (Suns GM) Steve (Kerr) and they were real positive with everything. They were talking about the different things I needed to work on. So I went home to the Chicago area after spending most of the summer in Phoenix the previous summer.
I did a lot of work and I think I overexerted myself the previous summer. I put a lot of pressure on myself while I was working out and I think that played a part in me getting an injury.
This past summer, I just wanted to get back home so I could get a release and because there’s a lot of good full-court runs in Chicago. The summer before, I did a lot of workouts but I couldn’t get any full-court run.
I actually liked the training this past summer more than the year before. There’s a lot of great talent that comes through Chicago and a lot of great trainers there too. I played with Shannon Brown, Dee Brown, Will Bynum, Luther Head, Corey Maggette, Devin Harris, Roger Powell Jr. and Quentin Richardson. Shawn Marion played a couple of times.
Coming into training camp, my whole mentality was to put a lot of work in and give myself a chance to get on the court. I went to summer league just to get some work in with the guys although they already knew what I could do.
I felt good and I thought I had a pretty good training camp. I always try to stay positive, keep working and keep myself ready for getting on the court.
Before coming to Phoenix, I’ve always played. This is the first time in my life I’ve been in this situation. Sometimes I get down.
Like any competitor, you want to play. It’s especially hard with this team because we don’t practice as much because we have so many veterans.
I worked so hard to convert over to just playing the 2-position strictly, but Alvin and Steve knew how tough it was for me coming back from injury and trying to regain the confidence that I had before the injury. They also know how hard it is to never know when you’re going to get into the game as opposed to consistently knowing that you’re going to get in. When you know what time of the game you are going to get in, you can prepare yourself mentally for it.
Before I came here I was always impatient. I wanted everything to come right now.
I felt as if I worked hard I would earn my spot instantly. I felt that I’d just out-work somebody to get on the court. That been pretty much my MO my whole life, but it just works a little differently here because it’s a business.
That’s one thing I had to learn so I built patience, became calm and didn’t let this situation discourage me. We have such a good team with top-notch classy guys like Steve (Nash) and Grant (Hill) that just watching them helps me so much.
I’m able to talk to Grant about my situation and he understands how tough it is. Grant and Steve offer a lot of advice and tell me to keep my head up because they know I can play in this league.
Steve talked to me about how he wasn’t playing that much his first few years and how he went on to win MVPs in his 30s. He said that when he was in my position he stayed on top of his game, so that’s one of the things I do now.
Instead of getting down on myself, I’d rather go into the gym and put some work in. I can control everything that I do, I can’t control the outcome of me getting on the court playing, but I can control me being ready when the time comes.
I’m the type of player that loves to play and feels like I need to play in order to feel like I’m getting better. When I don’t, I feel like I’m losing an edge to my game. That’s the toughest part.
Even in my rookie year I was able to go down to the D-League and was able to play. I went down there and did really good and I was able to keep my confidence up. I think now I have to find different ways to challenge myself physically and mentally. Me and Grant challenge each other by seeing who will be first in the weight room or who will get the most lifts in during the month and the year.
I push him and he pushes me. I try to lead the team in weight-lifts per month. I also work out and shoot after every game.
I was kind of naïve when I came into the league and thought that if I outwork somebody I’ll get out on the court. But it’s a business and I have to take account money situations.
I have to understand that I’m a business, I’m a brand so I have to look at every aspect and every factor of why I’m not playing and why I haven’t gotten to the point I want and need to be. But when my time comes I have to be ready.
If I do get a chance and I’m not ready the coaching staff can say, ‘well I gave you this chance, I gave you the opportunity and you weren’t ready.’ That’s the type of league this is.
At times, earlier in this season, I think there was a point where I really got down on myself. At the beginning of the season and in training camp, when I wasn’t playing very much, I got down on myself and was kind of feeling sorry for myself.
That was something that I’ve never done in my life and I was questioning whether I should be in this league. But I worked my way out of it and after going to the gym every day, I realized that I do belong here and that it’s all about situation and opportunity.
I’ve always took it upon myself to work things out. It’s like the pact I made with myself and then having to live up to it. I have learned to count on myself and take the challenge of getting through some things.
But I definitely was taking advice from all the guys and the coaches. (Assistant coach) Igor (Kokoskov) talks to me about what kind of player I am and (assistant coaches) Bill Cartwright and John Shumate have also been helpful in the process.
Although Grant and Steve have talked to me a lot about things, LB is the person I talk to the most about the on–the-court and off-the-court stuff. I probably spend most of my time with Leandro.
Unfortunately, last year I felt like I was about to break out and then my injury played a big part in me taking a step back. I spent all of last year trying to recover.
You quickly forget all of the accolades that you won in college because people are focused on the present. I think for most fans, they don’t understand the business of basketball.
They just see who is on the court and who’s not playing and a lot of people question me and think that I don’t work as hard because they don’t see me. They don’t know how many hours I put in the gym and in the weight room to try to stay ready.
The situation we have here is that we have a lot of guys with roles already so it makes it tough for a guy like me. You have J-Rich, who’s a starter and a big name in this league, who’s playing a lot of minutes and then you have LB, who’s been here for six or seven years and won Sixth Man of the Year Award. It’s tough for a young player for me to come into the league and try to break out with them in front of me.
It’s not that I’m playing behind guys that are average. But being behind them, being able to practice against them every day and being able to hold my own and know that I’m doing well against them, gives me confidence.
I look at a lot of guys’ situations. I just feel I need the chance to play. I feel like if I had the opportunity, I’d be able to prove something.
Now if I landed in a situation where I was given the opportunity and I didn’t perform, I’d question, ‘What do I need to do? How do I find my niche?’ But I don’t feel like I’ve ever given the complete opportunity to establish what I exactly needed to work on.
You can’t judge a player by having him come in at the end of a game. Whereas, if you know that you’re getting in during the first or second quarter, that’s where I feel I can prove something.
But we started out so good, we have to keep rolling with what we’re doing. A guy like myself will have fun just as long as we’re winning. The guys are all happy and I’ll find a way to make them laugh in the locker room.
Being around negativity growing up and all around me, I grew up kind of a negative person. But I realized that wasn’t going to get me anywhere.
Growing up, it felt like negativity led to death or jail. So I decided I wasn’t going to go down that road.
Having a positive outlook on life and every situation got me through all of the tough situations. From losing friends to having a tough family situation, I always learned from other people’s mistakes.
When I started high school, I was still a negative person. I came from a situation where I was in the majority to going to a high school that was majority Caucasian.
I think that taught me a lot about myself. When I went there, I was stereotyped off the bat and being negative didn’t help.
It was something that I had to prove. I decided I was going to be a positive person and take the challenge of going to school full-time and never miss a day. That helped me build my character.
When my brother went into the army I kind of became the man of the house and had to learn to deal with adult situations early and help my mother out with my brothers and sisters.
I had to be strong for them and be their role model. And that played a part in me never wanting to give up.
I analyzed what made someone successful out of a bad situation and I saw that only a positive mindset would get me out of the situation I was in. I saw families that didn’t have anything in life.
People with less than nothing stayed happy and seemed to have a happy life. Things like that, I took into account.
This is a game and for me, it’s my life, but at the end of the day I have to realize that I have a family outside of my basketball family and things are a lot tougher out there for other people than me. I’m blessed to be in the position that I am in.
That’s one of the things that keep me going. In the Chicago area, there are a lot of people that call me and tell me that everybody is pulling for me and that understand the situation and know what I’m through.
At least I have a foot in the NBA. From here on out, I have to work my butt off to try get some playing time, but there are even worse basketball situations than the one I am in.
I have friends that are just trying to get in the door. I’m here so I have to make the most it. So the first step to being positive is appreciating that I’m here.
I’m around a lot of good guys where everybody is unselfish and everybody likes each other. That helps me stay positive too.
I take my goals a step at a time. But my main goal, and it might sound funny for a guy not playing, is to be a superstar in this league. I work to be a superstar, not a role player.
I’ve always set my goals high, so if I settle on being an All-Star, so be it (he laughs). My road here has probably come to an end but the journey was worth it.
I learned so much as far as mentally being tough and that’s one of those things that I’d never take back. A lot of people ask me if I regret playing here.
For one, I’d never take back everything that I’ve learned and all of the relationships that I’ve built here.
From the media, to the management, the guys in the locker room, I’ve always had fun here.
Little things like not playing, I feel like that’ll change because I work too hard. I feel like one day everybody will look and say, ‘Where’s Alando Tucker been the last three years after being Big Ten Player of the Year?’
There’s a possibility that I will stay play here, even though the team didn’t pick up my option. You never know what the moves will be, but if we’re going to keep essentially the same team, I probably won’t be here. It’s just something I realize.
But you never know with this upcoming class of free agents. Every team is trying to create room and money for this big year. I’m prepared to go as hard as I can for the rest of year and if I’m here next year, that would be a blessing, but I’ll set myself up for having to go work out for other teams just in case I’m not.
And I’m going to be the type of player that if another team should ever call about me to the Suns, they’re going to say nothing but positive things about me and that I was a professional… regardless of the situation. I want people to say he’s a good guy, a good teammate and a hard-worker.
Those are things that can get you a long way in this league, whether you play or not. Talent-wise, if I’m able to get a chance, that’s one thing I won’t doubt or ever question. Once I get on the court, I feel like I’ll be able to handle that.
I’m blessed to even have the opportunity to be here. Just for me being able to get out of my previous situation and knowing that I have so many people following me, supporting me and believing in me.