P.J. Tucker returned to the NBA last season — after playing in several different countries abroad — and earned his way into a regular spot in the Phoenix Suns’ rotation. He was one of the few holdovers as the franchise readjusted much of its personnel and roster before the 2013-14 campaign, and he has started every game this season at small forward.
Entering Thursday, Tucker and the Suns have the Western Conference’s sixth-best record at 17-10, and are the ninth-best team overall in the NBA at the moment.
The Suns have won eight of their last nine games, but Tucker said Thursday on Burns & Gambo that he doesn’t feel the team is playing the best basketball it could play.
“I think we still feel like we could be better,” he said. “We’ve played good games and times of the game where we were really good. But from start to finish, whole 48 minutes, we haven’t played a complete game yet this season. So I still think there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
Fans may disagree about his “complete game” comment, but Tucker said there’s still a lot of basketball left to be played before the postseason rolls around. Tucker said he refuses to think about whether or not the Suns are a playoff team right now.
“So many more games. So much can happen,” he said. “Just got to take each and every game, play hard and try to come out with wins. And at the end of the day, when the chips fall, we’ll see where we’re at.”
Tucker’s attitude about this year’s Suns reflects how he feels about himself. Even though he’s been starting every game, the University of Texas product said he doesn’t feel like an established NBA player yet; he said he just thinks about improving his game year after year.
As to how the Suns are doing so well with a roster of castoffs and journeymen — such as Tucker and Gerald Green — and previously unproven players — e.g., Eric Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee — the 6-foot-6 swingman said each player brings different experiences to the team and that they all work towards a common goal.
“When you bring it all together, it kind of just makes us this oddly shaped, beautiful thing,” Tucker laughed.
He credited new Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek as the key to making all the “ingredients” come together to be successful.
When asked which newcomer has surprised him the most on the team, Tucker didn’t hesitate to name second-year center Plumlee, who has started every game for the Suns despite playing sparingly as a rookie in Indiana.
The 25-year-old former Duke standout is coming off perhaps his best game as a pro, in which he scored 17 points and grabbed 20 rebounds Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“He’s getting better as the season goes on. He’s getting better and better,” Tucker said, echoing his coach’s comments on Plumlee earlier in the day on Doug & Wolf. “I would hate to see him in a couple of years, because he’s going to be tough.”