Rockets’ P.J. Tucker on what it’s like to guard players like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant
P.J. Tucker is indispensable. While more educated league followers fully understood his worth to the Houston Rockets last season, the summer losses of Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has made it even more obvious how integral Tucker is to his team’s success.
Stellar individual defense isn’t the only attribute the 33 year old brings to the table, either. Tucker is a voracious rebounder on both sides of the floor, a proven three-point shooter with increasing versatility to his jumper, and a canny screen-setter with a keen understanding of timing, space, and angles.
His nearly unparalleled ability to make life hard on all five opposing player one-on-one is what makes him most valuable to Houston, though, and nearly sparked his team to a win over the Golden State Warriors in last year’s Western Conference Finals.
Obviously, the Rockets will be placing a massive burden on Tucker’s shoulders should they meet the Warriors yet again come playoff time.
And whether he’s successful checking the likes of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry or not, Tucker knows his effort won’t be the reason why Golden State’s superstars live up to that billing.
“I always say you have to play two times as hard as the guy on offense,” he said in a profile written by CBS Sports’ James Herbert. “Especially in this league, with how good people score, it’s the most tiring thing in the world. Chasing around Steph Curry or having to be an arm’s length away from Kevin Durant at all times, knowing people’s moves and trying to beat ’em to it, trying to be physical, it’s so much you have to do and it takes so much hard work to guard somebody. Nobody wants to do it. It’s not a desirable thing.”
Tucker is averaging 7.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game this season.
The Rockets, after an awful start defensively this season, currently rank 21st in defensive rating, with the league’s sixth-best defense since the All-Star break.