In his one season with the Miami Heat, P.J. Tucker quickly became a fan favorite. So when The Athletic’s Shams Charania broke the news last week that Tucker, a free agent, was signing with the Philadelphia 76ers, fans were heartbroken.
And one former teammate voiced his displeasure with Tucker’s move.
In the comments section of Tucker’s farewell post on Instagram, the Heat’s Jimmy Butler wrote: “F*** you and @joelembiid yeah I brought him into this 🤷🏿♂️.”
Butler, who’s tight with Embiid, likely made the NSFW comment in his signature raw style of humor, but it’s also likely he’ll genuinely miss having Tucker in Miami. For a guy who famously “doesn’t like anybody,” as Warriors star Andre Iguodala said, the 32-year-old wing adored Tucker.
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Butler Went Out of His Way to Praise Tucker During the Playoffs
After the Heat defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, Butler dedicated a portion of his press conference to praising Tucker.
“I didn’t know I would fall in love with a basketball player as much as I have with P.J.” he said. “Seriously, because he just plays incredibly hard. And he got the tough job every night of guarding the opposing team’s best player and then going down there and shooting the ball five times. Like, you gotta respect that because…
“Some guys — even I get like this at times — I’ll be like, man, I’m not going out there just to play defense and not go down there and shoot the ball. He never, ever, ever complains. He’s one the biggest reasons why we’re winning because he does all the little things and it’s easy to follow suit whenever you got somebody like that.”
While the 37-year-old prepares to take his talents to the City of Brotherly Love, he made sure to send his goodbye note on Instagram to Heat Nation on Instagram. Sharing a series of photos from throughout the 2021-22 NBA season, Tucker wrote a moving message to the franchise.
“What a year.. True underdogs that really got it out the mud and went against all odds,” Tucker captioned the post. “Miami you will forever be my home and heat nation i can’t thank you guys enough for the love you’ve shown all year. Though our journey together has come to an end the love will forever remain the same 🖤🙌🏽.”
The comments section quickly filled with well-wishes.
Money Was the Ultimate Factor in Tucker’s Decision
Tucker officially inked his three-year, $33.2 million contract on July 6, expressing his confidence in choosing to join the Sixers.
“This team is good enough to compete head-to-head with anybody in the league, and I’m going to come in here and do whatever I can to help get us to that next level,” Tucker said, according to a tweet by Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman. “Philly fans demand greatness and it will be up to us to get to where we need to be.”
Ultimately, more money and a multi-year deal were Tucker’s main priority, which is not unusual for a player who will be 38 when the 2022-23 playoffs arrive.
As for the Heat’s final offer, the front office drew a firm line as to how far they would go to keep Tucker, according to the Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang on June 30.
The Heat, he wrote, were “willing to offer Tucker a fully guaranteed contract for the maximum-allowable three years using the non-Bird exception,” saying a deal would have included “a starting salary of $8.4 million and [and have been] worth about $26.5 million through three seasons.” In the end, Chaing wrote, the Heat were not “willing to use the $10.5 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception to re-sign Tucker, according to sources, which would allow Miami to offer him a three-year contract worth about $33 million.”
Initially, the Sixers didn’t have the money either. That is until All-Star James Harden, who was traded to Philadelphia halfway through the 2021-22 NBA season, agreed to restructure his deal.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted on June 29, “Harden has declined his $47.3M option and become a free agent. He keeps real the possibility of negotiating a new deal that would deliver the Sixers roster-building flexibility in free agency – including use of the full $10.5M exception.”