Heat Forward Seems to Be Coach Erik Spoelstra’s New Favorite Player

Erik Spoelstra, PJ Tucker

Getty Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra (L) seems to really love the team's newly acquired forward P.J. Tucker (R).

The Miami Heat‘s newly restructured roster clearly has chemistry, but they are still figuring out ways to gel together on the court, especially when All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are ruled out.

Butler (sprained ankle) has missed three consecutive games, and Adebayo (bruised knee) remains questionable for Wednesday’s night tilt against the New Orleans Pelicans. While last season this would’ve been a recipe for disaster, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra remains confident the team can still win.

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Why? Well, because one particular player is proving to be “as good as anyone I’ve ever seen,” Spolestra gushed, per Sun Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman.

Forward P.J. Tucker has impressed Spoelstra so much, that the 36-year-old veteran seems to be his new favorite player.

“I think P.J.’s one of the best screeners in this modern-day era,” Spoelstra said. “In terms of his nuance with it, IQ, timing, deception, feel and his variety of different ways to get guys open, it really is remarkable.”

And that’s not all. Spoelstra, Tucker has that “it” star quality in basketball, a natural talent he seems to have been born with.

“He can do it in pick-and-rolls, off-ball, in hammer screens, a lot of things that you can’t really teach,” Spoelstra continued. You have to have such a superior level of mind and IQ for the timing of those kind of screens. It’s been really fun to see that part of his genius off the ball. He’s as good as anyone I’ve seen.”

This isn’t the first time Spoelstra has taken the time to single out Tucker, and it won’t be the last. Just a few days ago Coach Spo said of the defensive stud, “He’s just a winning player. And that’s probably the shame of it. To the average fan, unless we constantly educate people, no one will have any idea of how many things that he impacts.”

Tucker’s Teammates Love His Selfless Dedication to Winning

Tucker is not just the teacher’s pet, he’s an incredibly hard-working baller who’s earned the respect and admiration from his fellow teammates. His unselfish style of play perfectly mimics that of Miami’s core duo, Butler and Adebayo, and thrives on facilitating shots for his teammates.

“If you want recognition, then my job isn’t a job for you,” Tucker sais
As for personal stats and accolades, “I don’t care. I don’t do highlights. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me.”

Heat’s sharpshooter Duncan Robinson backs up Tucker’s bold statements. “PJ is amazing. He doesn’t care about literally anything but that scoreboard and he’ll do whatever it takes to win, Robinson said. “I mean, he comes up to me and says, ‘My goal is to get you 15 threes.’ He’s just selfless like that.

“You see the way he competes on defense, rebounds. He just wins all those in-between areas, and he brings a certain level of toughness that I just think sets the tone every single game.”

Like Robinson, six-time All-Star Lowry, whom Spoelstra also calls a “brilliant screener,” loves playing alongside Tucker. “I mean Tuck is one of the hardest-playing guys in the NBA. He should always make All-Defensive team,” Lowry said.

“He’s a guy who has no letup… His intensity of how he plays, how he handles situations, how he handles guarding people, how he handles his communication is awesome. He’s a veteran’s veteran, and he’s a pro’s pro. He’s a man. You know what I mean? It’s tough not to want to go in the battlefield with him.”

Heat President Pat Riley Also Can’t Get Over Tucker’s Talent

Miami Heat Pat Riley

GettyMiami Heat president Pat Riley looks on during a playoff game in 2020.

One person who knew right away what Tucker’s talent could provide to the Heat’s roster, “The Godfather” — Pat Riley.

“He’s three times more than what I thought he was. He just is,” Riley said of Tucker last month. “If I wanted to put on a defensive clinic, I would probably use him as an example on how to close out, how to get in a stance, how to slide your feet, how to stay in a play when you’re beat, how to get over a pick, how to communicate and talk. These are just on the defensive end, and how to blitz, switch and those kind of things.”

As for Tucker’s talent on the offensive end, “He’s a heat-seeking missile,” Riley said.

READ NEXT: Heat Star Jimmy Butler Trolls His Own Teammates on Instagram

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