July 18, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Xavier Henry (4) guards Phoenix Suns forward PJ Tucker (2) during the first half of the game at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
From Germany to the Summer League to the NBA would be the cliff notes in the long story that tells how P.J. Tucker has finally made it.
There is something about reaching the end of the long winding journey to the NBA for a guy like P.J. Tucker after years abroad. It is not the carbon copy one-and-done fantasy that most players enjoy.
Anthony Leon Tucker played three standout years at Texas. The P.J. comes from his father who was an aspiring baseball player who nearly made it to the major leagues. His father's nickname; Pops because of the sound the ball made jumping off his bat, hence "Pops Junior" or P.J. for short became the new name for Anthony Leon Tucker.
Tucker's father did not make the major leagues, but after his son went through the highs and lows of going 35th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft to leaving the league he grew up dreaming of playing in it paid itself off full circle.
His first go around lasted a total of 17 games with the Toronto Raptors in the franchises most successful year as they made the playoffs. Instead of building off of that, Tucker did not get the other side of basketball.
In his youth he made the simple and common error of youth by not having the knowledge of the business side of the NBA. That led him to adding five stamps to his passport.
"A lot of stuff goes into play," said Tucker about his rookie year. "It definitely was different from Texas being the man and pretty much running stuff to having to be a rotation player in the league. It was definitely an adjustment."
In the growth as a basketball player these speed bumps are a necessary evil. For most players the path to the NBA is a journey, and in some cases a long one.
Over the past five years Tucker has enjoyed the sun in Puerto Rico, the sights in Italy, Greece, and Israel before landing in Germany. It was his play in Germany that turned enough heads to where he actually had the option of going to Russia or getting back to the NBA.
After a great year in Germany where he was named the "Import Player" and "Forward of the Year" on top of being first team all-league performer. It was a year to remember for Tucker as the second leading scorer (16.2) and fifth leading rebounder (7.1) in the league. That performance was enough to lead his team -- Brose Baskets -- to a Championship in Germany.
The right people saw him play leading to a contract in Russia and an opportunity to play for the Phoenix Suns Summer League. "This was the deal from the beginning," said Tucker about playing for the Suns. "I knew where I wanted to fall."
His comfort level with the organization made this an easy decision for the 27 year old Tucker.
"I know a lot of people in the front office from prior relationships. I know a couple of guys on the team already. A lot of guys leaving and a lot of guys coming, and there is a lot of energy and a lot of newness."
With his basic one plus one deal Tucker is now a part of that new energy that has been buzzing around the arena all summer. This is the culmination of a long journey, "For me it proves that I'm supposed to be in this league and I was always supposed to get in this league."
Overall this is a new chapter for Tucker to prove exactly that. In 2006 he did not attempt a single three, but that is a new wrinkle he brings to the Suns after shooting 47% from deep in Germany this past season.
The strong bullish wing plays a tough power forward style that will be welcome in Phoenix. He can defend four positions well giving the team depth and a welcome defensive presence. A lot of players getting "categorized" as Tucker phrased it, but the versatility Pops Junior adds to the team is a familiar tone among the 2012-2013 Phoenix Suns.