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July 5, 2021

P.J. Tucker

Milwaukee Bucks

Media Day

Q. P.J., we just were talking with Book [Devin Booker] earlier, and he was talking about some of the battles that you guys would have one-on-one in practice.

P.J. TUCKER: I knew that was going to come up.

Q. Yes. I guess as a broader -- if you would like to go into those, that's fine, but as a broader question, what did you see from Book in those early years, the work that he did behind the scenes when the team was struggling that has sort of set him up for this moment in the playoffs?

P.J. TUCKER: Everything he's doing now, like I said, we knew, we just knew, and when you've been around and played against a bunch of guys, in this fraternity, we all know each other. We all played against each other. We all knew that he was going to be really good. Like he wasn't just good, he was really good.

Being his teammate at that time and being the vet on the team, it was my job to make him better. I knew what I had to do for what he was going to see and what was coming and what he needed to be ready for. So I would literally just -- (laughing), it was like that. It was really like that. But he like showed that he was one of the ones. He just like took it, and he just elevated. He became who he is and who he's continuing to be. He's -- yeah. Yeah.

Q. Last time you were in this building, it looks a little bit different now with all the renovations?

P.J. TUCKER: Yeah, new place.

Q. You were one of the guys in the league with the perspective of being teammates with both Devin and Chris. When the trade went down and you saw the news, what was your reaction? Did you just like know from right off the bat they were a good fit for each other?

P.J. TUCKER: Yeah, I seen it -- people were talking about it before, but I knew if that came together, that would be strong. It wasn't just that, it was other pieces they were putting together, too. Getting Jae, doing a bunch of little things that they did, they put together a complete team, and they were going to have a chance. They've shown it all year. They've played well all year long.

Even their hot start, people were thinking they were going to fall. But they just kept going. You know when you get those two together, if you get the right pieces around them, you're going to have a pretty good team.

Q. I know your mind is on the championship right now, but with your years in Phoenix and the fan base at the time when you were here, is there a part of you that's able to be happy for the franchise and the fan base and seeing this rise for them this year, or is it just like competitors in your head right there?

P.J. TUCKER: That is actually really awkward because I do have -- this is like a second home for me. Yeah, people I know and love here, like of course. But no. I'm sorry, no. No.

Q. How did coming to the Suns change the direction of your basketball career and what is your perspective on being in the NBA Finals?

P.J. TUCKER: Phoenix is honestly everything to me. Like, I literally turned down my contract I had to go back to Russia, which was the biggest contract I was ever going to sign, and it was a really big decision for me to do that. I wasn't happy about it at first, but my wife and agent talked me into it, and it ended up being the best decision I ever made in my life and it changed my life. So I'm super grateful and indebted to Phoenix and the staff and the people that were here, Robert Sarver, all of them.

I still don't know yet, like the whole Finals, it's crazy because every year when you fight to try to get to this moment, and through everything, the injuries, the team, like everything teams go through to regroup and change some pieces and you think you've still got a shot and then you really don't, and then you get traded and you change and now your perspective changes and taking hits and fighting, fighting, fighting, and to actually be here before a game, it's hard to put it in perspective yet.

I'm super excited. Been working for this moment all my life.

Q. P.J., welcome back to Phoenix. You kind of talked about how you're not necessarily rooting for the Suns, but from a competitive standpoint, are you talking to Book? Are you talking to CP3? What's that conversation like? Are you guys on non-speaking terms for the next two weeks?

P.J. TUCKER: I love how that turned into I'm not rooting for the Suns so fast (Laughter). No, no, I'm not talking to many people. This is it. This is the time to lock in and take care of business. I love everybody, but right now -- after this is over, then we can go back to loving each other. This is a battle. This is war. It is what it is.

Q. Two-part question for you: One, Monty Williams and Chris Paul have recently spoken about his leadership style adapting in Phoenix and him kind of toning things down maybe a little bit with some of the younger guys. I'm curious, as someone who's played with him and knows Chris really well, what do you think of his leadership style, and have you seen some of those changes from him over the past couple years? And second would be, you guys deploy a switch-heavy defense. I'm curious, what are the challenges in switching onto Chris and Devin?

P.J. TUCKER: First, for the switching defense, it's always a problem. You're getting a lot of what are presumed to be mismatches on sometimes centers on guards. We've done that pretty much most of the playoffs -- Brooklyn, Atlanta. It's tough. No matter what, at this level, at this point, all the guards are really good. They can all score. Even putting guards on bigs now, it's tough trying to rebound.

That's something we carry heavy on our shoulders. Guys know to guard their own, be able to guard to take guys off the glass, being able to help and fight with each other, that's just a part of it. Obviously, it's going to pose that situation a lot of times, but we like our chances. We like our guys out there.

I forgot what you asked first. Leadership?

Q. Chris' leadership.

P.J. TUCKER: I don't know. I think Chris is Chris. Like people can -- you can dumb it down. You can say whatever you want about him. Like he's Chris, like Chris is going to be Chris. He's going to be him no matter what. I don't know you dumb somebody like that down. He's just going to be Chris, and I guess that's been good enough to get him where they’re at, so I think it works.

Q. Hi, P.J. I was wondering if you could tell us about your shoe game for the Finals, what goes into it, how many pairs we might see.

P.J. TUCKER: Man, we just played Atlanta, I don't know how many hours ago. We were home for a nap, and then we got right on the plane to Phoenix. I have no idea what shoes I've got, and I could care less as long as they lace up and I can wear them, that's all I care about. This is probably the first time in my life I could care less what shoes I'm wearing.

Q. P.J., when was it here during your time in Phoenix that you knew, okay, I'm in the NBA. I don't have to worry about going overseas anymore. I'm a solidified player in this league. At what point?

P.J. TUCKER: Wow, that is -- hmm. We were playing at OKC New Year's Eve, and Alvin Gentry just walked in was like, P.J., you start. I was like, What? He goes, you're starting. Mind you, I'm like 15th man for sure, and he's just like, yeah, you're starting. I was like all right (laughing). All right. And I started from then on out. That was my first year, New Year's Eve. I'll never forget that.

Q. What do you think of the players that come into the league that aren't heralded can learn from your story?

P.J. TUCKER: I don't know. It's like all the cliche stuff, it's easy to say. Don't give up. Keep fighting. But you can say that stuff and still not work out. You guys, it's got to be a little luck, a little of this, a little of that. I don't know. I could sit here and say all that stuff, and it's like all right, whatever.

No, honestly, it is that stuff, though. Like I worked my butt off for years and still never got a chance. It never made sense. It never added up being in the right situation, in the wrong situation, until it all just comes together finally, and once it does, you know it. It just happens, and you can kind of keep going from there, but a lot of things had to change too. The game changed a little bit from when I first came in the league. It started to shift, and people started needing different things, and those niches everybody talks about, you started to be able to fill those things.

So, a lot of things have to change and have to work in your favor, and it worked for me.

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