In an atmosphere that has been constantly changing all year, one thing remains constant: P.J. Tucker.
The 30-year-old veteran from Texas walked onto the hardwood of the Talking Stick Resort Arena on Sunday to start his 56th game of the season against the San Antonio Spurs. When the buzzer sounded and the clock read triple zeros, Tucker exited the arena with seven points and a team-high 30 minutes to his name. His Phoenix Suns fought hard but ultimately left the arena with a 7-point loss.
It’s an occurrence Tucker and the Suns have become used to. Phoenix has lost 11 games in a row and 26 out of their last 28.
During this disastrous run, the Suns have lost their leading scorer, Eric Bledsoe, for the season with a torn meniscus. They have also fired their head coach Jeff Hornacek and traded away Markieff Morris, their longest-tenured player.
But Tucker remains in Phoenix. With all the changing parts around him, the small forward now holds the title as the longest-tenured Sun.
“For me to still be here is absolutely crazy,” Tucker told AZCentral.
After five seasons of playing overseas, Tucker rejoined the ranks of the NBA during the 2012–13 season, as a member of the last-place Phoenix Suns.
Despite currently playing for the team with the third-worst record in the NBA, Tucker claimed “it would suck” to be traded, according to Arizona Sports. With zero playoff appearances in four seasons with the Suns, Tucker wants to earn a playoff berth with the same team that gave him a second opportunity in the NBA.
Tucker is the only player on the young roster who started both opening night and the Suns’ latest defeat. His scoring and rebounding averages have dropped from previous seasons, but he continues to show up and play for the franchise every night. In four seasons with the Suns, he has only missed six games.
Tucker walking onto the hardwood every night is like clockwork in Phoenix. He is dependable, no matter what his team’s record is. The only games that Tucker has regularly missed in his career are playoff games, and he hopes to change that before leaving the Valley of the Sun.