Heat President Breaks Silence on P.J. Tucker’s Pending Free Agency

Pat Riley, P.J. Tucker

Bally Sports/Getty Miami Heat president Pat Riley (L) wasn't shy about his feelings toward veteran forward, and pending free agent, P.J. Tucker (R).

The president of the Miami Heat, Pat Riley, gave his annual end-of-the-season press conference on Monday, June 6, during which “The Godfather” personally addressed each player’s status, and the franchise’s plan to come back stronger next season.

The 77-year-old admitted he was “stunned, frustrated, angry, all of the things,” following the Heat’s heartbreaking 100-96 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but that he was “beginning to move on.”

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Riley said, “I thought we had an absolutely great year… a year we can really be proud of,” but that “we have to be proactive in improving the team… I think we all realize that you can always use more. Especially when you’ve gone through the season and you analyze the result and it wasn’t as good as you thought it should be.”

However, one piece of the puzzle that Riley is hoping the Heat don’t have to replace is P.J. Tucker. “I’d love to have Tuck back next year,” Riley said. He’s part of our core. … He’s special.”

“P.J. is like a cornerstone,” Riley continued, comparing the 37-year-old forward to Heat team captain, Udonis Haslem. “When UD was in his prime… he did things that were significant,” mentioning how the Heat veteran’s contributions helped lead the team to an NBA Championship in 2006.

“That’s what Tuck does. He doesn’t do a lot scoring-wise, but makes a lot of great plays,” Riled said.

Tucker Made It Clear He Wants More Than a ‘Mid-Level’ Contract

If Riley wants to keep Tucker away from the free agency market, he’ll likely need to figure out a path in which the veteran forward gets a pay raise. https://twitter.com/Dolfin55/status/1530563585230913536?s=20&t=g1Pjs65PkJoSW2iSF2l7FQ

After the Milwaukee Bucks refused to go over the salary cap to keep Tucker last year, the Heat signed the former second-round pick from the 2006 NBA Draft to a two-year, $14.35 million contract.

“It’s like, ‘Am I a mid-level guy?’” Tucker told the Sun-Sentinel on Thursday, June 2, which according to reporter Ira Winderman, was “in a tone that made it clear he believed he was not.”

Tucker said of his $7.4 million player option for next season, “It’s a label that tells a guy what you think he is worth.”

While it seemed like Tucker returning to Miami was a lock, CBS Sports reporter Sam Quinn surmised, “After a strong postseason run, [Tucker] could probably opt-out and at the very least command multiple years at his current salary.”

Erik Spoelstra Would Also Love to Keep Tucker in Miami

Erik Spoelstra

GettyHead Coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat looks on against the Boston Celtics during the second quarter in Game Four of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 23, 2022.

Riley and Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra both appear to be on the same page when it comes to keeping Tucker in Miami. During Spoelstra’s end-of-the-year press conference, he couldn’t have spoken more highly of the veteran forward

“To everybody in the locker room, it’s really a special, genuine feeling when you have somebody that is committed to winning and helping other guys,” Spoelstra said.

“He’s so unselfish, you know, as a player, always taking on the biggest challenges. Defensively, he’ll do all the little things, the dirty work, the tough things, and never complain about it. He never complains or talks about his shots. He’s just completely selfless, an absolute throwback player. That’s why he’s beloved by staff and everybody in the locker room.”

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