Another veteran player has been sent home while their team searches for a trade partner ... and once again, the Nets are seen as a possible landing spot the result of a trade deadline deal or a buyout.
The Rockets, losers of 14 straight, have agreed to let P.J. Tucker, their 35-year-old defensive specialist, leave the team after he balked at playing Thursday night, irked that he still hasn’t been traded. Like Blake Griffin, who joined the Nets after a Pistons buyout this week, Cleveland’s Andre Drummond and San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge, the decision to deactivate him seems mutual. (In addition to those players, another possible buyout candidate —J.J. Redick — isn’t playing because of injury.)
Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Rockets have been in “concurrent trade discussions” with several teams including Brooklyn.
The Rockets have had several concurrent trade discussions with teams in recent weeks involving Tucker, talks that are expected to result in a deal for Tucker prior to the March 25 trade deadline, sources said.
However, Woj also said that the Rockets, as they did with James Harden, are playing hardball and potential partners haven’t been willing to go along.
So far, the Rockets’ preference for a young, productive rotation player in trade talks has been a sticking point with teams, which haven’t been willing to part with that kind of an asset for a 35-year-old on an expiring contract, sources said.
Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Rockets similarly reports Friday that the Rockets aren’t interested in draft picks.
The Rockets have sought a young player for Tucker, rather than to only collect draft picks, two individuals with the team’s thinking said.
Meanwhile, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer is even more explicit. In the comments on his analysis of Blake Griffin’s addition Thursday, O’Connor says the Nets “want Tucker.”
League sources say the Nets aren’t done making moves to bolster the defense—they want PJ Tucker!—so we’ll wait to do a deep dive of the Brooklyn defense closer to the playoffs once the roster is locked in. As is, I think the Nets have way more options and flexibility than they get credit for, which will be most valuable in a postseason series.
Tucker makes a little less than $8 million this year, the last on a four-year deal. Any Nets deal would almost certainly have to include Spencer Dinwiddie who is nearly a decade younger and makes $11.5 million. He is, of course, rehabbing from a partially torn ACL in L.A., hoping to rejoin the team.
Brooklyn’s interest in the 6’5” wing defender and small-ball center is not new. Earlier in the month, Woj, Shams Charania, Stephen A. Smith, Bill Simmons and Jackie MacMullan all reported on the interest. It almost seems preordained.
Tucker has multiple connections to the Nets. He played with Harden under then Rockets head coach —and now Nets assistant — Mike D’antoni for three years, starting every game since February 2018. Tucker and Jeff Green were also teammates last season in the “bubble.”
However, not everyone believes that Tucker can be the productive player he once was.
MacMullan said on Simmons’ podcast on March 1 that she did some digging on Tucker around the NBA and half the people she asked said they were bullish on what he could add to a team while the other half said he’s “cooked.”
“So one of my colleagues said to me, “PJ Tucker is cooked. He’s done.’ So I started asking around. and it’s pretty split. Again, last couple of days, I talked to people who think, ‘No, no, he’s going to be okay. You just have to utilize him better. use his minutes. He can’t play 30 minutes a game anymore. Don’t ask him to do that. Don’t ask him to guard centers every minute of every game.‘ Then some other guys said to me, ‘I don’t know.”
She asked Simmons what he thought, offering a balanced assessment with a Nets twist. said Simmons, “35 years old. Looks done. but season from hell. Feels like you could rejuvenate him pretty quickly. If he went to the Nets, I feel he’d be back in a week.”
The rejuvenation aspect, of course, played a big role in the Nets decision to sign Griffin after two injury-racked seasons in Detroit. For the season, Tucker is averaging 4.4 points and 4.0 rebounds with a career-low shooting line of 37/31/78 but his defense remains solid, if in short spurts than in the past.
What about the possibility of a buyout? Unlike Griffin, Drummond and Aldridge, Tucker’s salary is not so onerous that a deal is near impossible. It seems likely that one of the teams Houston GM Rafael Stone has spoken with will eventually pull the trigger, probably closer to the March 25 trade deadline.
- P.J. Tucker not expected to return to Houston Rockets; frustrated he hasn’t been traded, sources say - Adrian Wojnarowski - ESPN
- P.J. Tucker’s time with Rockets likely over - Jonathan Feigen - Houston Chronicle