The Miami Heat‘s starting lineup hasn’t been at full strength for months, but the team has admirably persevered through injuries and health protocols, and now sit in first place atop the Eastern Conference.
While there are a plethora of players to credit for the Heat’s continued success against such adversity, forward P.J. Tucker has been one of the most influential on both offense and defense.
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The 36-year-old veteran plays with the intensity of players half his age and during the Heat’s dominant 110-96 win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night, he scored 20 points in 23 minutes of play, while shooting 4-of-6 on threes.
During the postgame conference, Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang attempted to compliment Tucker for his dominating offensive performance but was swiftly shut down. A shining example of Heat culture, Tucker prefers to keeps all questions about a game win geared toward the entire team.
Chiang tweeted, “I just learned that you shouldn’t tell P.J. Tucker he’s shooting 46.9 percent on threes this season. Tucker: ‘I don’t know what I’m shooting and I don’t care.’ He immediately deflected and began speaking about the team, as P.J. Tucker is one to do.”
While Tucker did have one of the best offensive performances of his 10-year NBA career, the Heat’s win over the Knicks was truly a group effort. Duncan Robinson scored 25 points, Jimmy Butler drilled 22 points, with six rebounds, five assists, and two steals, while Tyler Herro put up 21 points with six rebounds and four assists.
Spoelstra Can’t Stop Gushing Over Tucker’s Versatility & Talent
While the Miami Heat’s acquisition of Kyle Lowry received the most attention, picking up Tucker appears to be head coach Erik’s Spoelstra favorite offseason move.
Spoelstra sang Tucker’s praises before the season started, and after the Knicks game on Wednesday night, he continued to offer the veteran forward unparalleled praise.
“He’s phenomenal, such a brilliant defender,” Spoelstra said. “He’s just a great basketball player. He’s smart, he’s tough, does all the winning plays that don’t show up in the box score. He communicates, he leads, he’s a skilled player, one of best historic three-point corner shooters. With us, he brings so much more to our offense with the play-making… He just continues to impress us.”
Tucker Has No Plans of Retiring After His Heat Contract Expires
Back in August, when the Heat signed Tucker to a two-year $15 million contract, naysayers couldn’t help but comment on his age. But Tucker, who turns 37 in May, has no plans of hanging up jersey anytime soon.
After Thursday night’s game, Tucker was asked if he seems himself playing beyond his contract with the Heat. “Easily,” Tucker said. “Two or three [years] is easy. My question is do I want to go past five. Next three or four will be easy. If we go past three or four, then we start talking.”
Tucker also credited Spoelstra for making basketball feel fresh and fun again, which has energized his game as a whole.
“Being able to get my floaters back… I haven’t shot that in a while,” Tucker said. “To be able to do something that’s natural to my game, I’ve been doing my whole life, but to be able to really exploit that and get to it [is good]. And him [Spoelstra] wanting me to do that.
“At this point in my career, to be able to get back to having fun playing is a big thing, especially at my age, mustering up to get ready to go every single night.”