P.J. Tucker and James Harden have plenty of history together in the NBA. After playing multiple seasons together with the Rockets, and now again with the Sixers, they’ve built a strong friendship on and off the court.
When all the Harden trade drama was in full swing this summer, and he’d just publicly called Daryl Morey a liar, Tucker didn’t hesitate to express his support for Harden on social media.
Last week at media day, Tucker (as you’d expect) discussed how his attitude is exactly the same.
“That’s my brother, no question,” Tucker said when talking about the Harden situation. “Everybody was questioning a social media post I made. That’s me having my brother’s back, no matter what. Our relationship goes way beyond basketball, with the years we’ve spent together. That aside, he has his ongoing thing and it is what it is. At this point, it is what it is. Whatever management and he decide … whatever happens, happens. But the rest of us have to come here, go to work and get ready to play.”
Tucker says his personal emotions don’t affect how he feels about playing for the Sixers moving forward either.
“Obviously I came here to play with James — James and Jo and the rest of the guys,” Tucker added. “So it doesn’t change anything. This is a business. You have to be a professional and whatever happens, happens. But control what you can control, come to work, lace your sneakers and play basketball. That’s it. Anything else that happens after that, it happens.”
Once he’d actually arrived, Harden’s time at training camp this week was calm and surprisingly positive. Especially compared to the drama surrounding Ben Simmons at camp two years ago.
Nick Nurse gave a on Harden’s conditioning, and he doesn’t think there needs to be a formal acknowledgment of the situation.— PHLY Sixers (@PHLY_Sixers) October 4, 2023
“He’s here, he knows the schedule, and we expect him to be here now.” pic.twitter.com/nYZTEG6Ikm
Nick Nurse and players alike complimented Harden’s attitude and condition. So, at least for now, Tucker isn’t alone in welcoming Harden’s presence on the team for as long as he’s around.
The Sixers are certainly doing their best to present a strong image on the vibe front.
Harden’s issue hasn’t been with his teammates, though. None of this changes the problems between Harden and Morey — the broken relationship that’s been at the heart of this saga all offseason. The remaining possibility of a trade with the Clippers still seems like the best outcome for everyone involved.
As for Tucker himself, how does the second-oldest NBA player feel heading into his second season with the Sixers?
“The same as always,” he said simply at media day. “I don’t change much. Just try to build each year, try to take another step. This is my first year coming into the season healthy in a few years, so I’m excited about that. But when you get older, you appreciate each time coming back, going through this whole motion again.
“Being the second-oldest person in the NBA sounds crazy to me, but I feel like all the guys that are the oldest are really young and can play a long time, and it’s scary. … Seeing guys go 22, 23, 24 years of playing basketball, it’s pretty cool. I’m still young at heart”
Tucker is obviously approaching the end of his career, and he was frequently a complete non factor on offense last season, averaging a mere 3.5 points in 25.6 minutes per game. The potential for Tucker to pick up his $11.5 million player option for 2024-25 remains concerning, too. Both for the Sixers’ on-court options and salary cap. That’s a steep price to pay for a 40-year-old Tucker, considering the declines we’ve already seen in his game.
He still has qualities to bring to the table, though. When he’s switched on, snatching rebounds and attacking the offensive glass, switching across guards and forwards, diving for loose balls, and hustling at both ends of the floor, he can still make a positive impact. His mentality and leadership does have value, too. Plus, when he channelled “Playoff P.J.”, and even had four postseason games were he hit multiple three-pointers (including two games with three triples against Boston), he proved capable of a few unexpected offensive boosts.
We’ll soon see how spry Tucker looks to open the new season. And how much longer (if at all) he gets to play with his old friend James Harden.
For now, we’re all as clueless as Tucker when it comes to wondering just how long it’ll take for the Harden situation to be resolved.
“That ain’t for me to answer,” Tucker said with a laugh when asked if he expects it to be sorted quickly. “I have no idea. I have no idea, but hopefully they figure it out soon. If not, it’s going to be what it’s going to be.”