Jul 21, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT
LAS VEGAS – P.J. Tucker came to Las Vegas as part of the Suns Summer League squad, but it wasn’t because he needed the practice.
Tucker, 28, has played the last seven seasons professionally — five overseas, two in the NBA — and started 45 of the 79 games he appeared in for the Suns last season.
No, Tucker wasn’t here for his professional development; he was here to set an example.
His work ethic is second to none, and Tucker once again played critical minutes and made some key plays to help the Suns continue their undefeated streak with a 91-89 win over the Heat to advance to Monday night’s championship game of the inaugural Summer League tournament.
The plan was always for Tucker to play a little with the summer team, said Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek, just to show the young guys how it’s done.
“Before we took over they had talked to him about playing in the summer just to help establish the hard work for some of the young guys that were going to be here,” Hornacek said. “It’s great for us as coaches to have a guy that demands hard work all the time. That can relate to the other players, so it’s a good example for us.”
But when asked what Tucker is still doing here — leading his team with 19 points in 29 minutes while at the same time going all out defensively — Hornacek said that it was simply due to the fact that Tucker wanted to stay.
“Guys love to play basketball,” Hornacek said. “P.J. was going to be out here anyway and when we initially talked to him, he said ‘yeah, I’ll play a couple games.’ Then the guy’s competitive juices flow, and I keep asking him, do you want to take the next one off? But he goes (quickly) ‘no, I’ll play.’ So I said OK.”
Tucker made the decision to keep playing sound like an extremely simple one.
“I’m here,” Tucker said. “You know, we got a new coach, he’s coaching our Summer League team — why wouldn’t I play?”
It’s been great that he has, for a young Suns team looking to develop a winning attitude under a new coaching staff. And the way Tucker always plays with a high level of energy and intensity can be nothing but a positive for the other guys on the summer roster to experience.