The Rockets have had both James Harden and Eric Gordon opt to not play for Team USA this summer, and PJ Tucker is now following suit. Here’s what I think of Tucker’s decision to pull out.
Team USA has had a much tougher time fielding a good team this year. Nearly all of the NBA’s star players declined an opportunity to play for Team USA this summer, including the Rockets’ own James Harden, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, and so many more. At this point, any other players withdrawing from the roster are vital blows for Team USA. Unfortunately there is one more. According to Shams Charania of the Athletic, P.J. Tucker has also withdrawn.
Tucker had just advanced an additional round of roster cuts, as I previously wrote about, but decided to withdraw today. Tucker was in the starting line-up recently when Team USA scrimmaged against a select team, comprised of mainly G-League players, according to Mike Trudell of the Lakers official site.
A collection of G-League/overseas players beat Team USA (closing line up of K. Walker, D. Mitchell, H. Barnes, PJ Tucker and B. Lopez handily in a scrimmage just now to close USA practice. Great effort from the unheralded group.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) August 14, 2019
This line-up of Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Harrison Barnes, Tucker and Brook Lopez, is likely the line-up Team USA would have had starting, especially considering the fact that they were playing them in crunch time of this scrimmage. Tucker’s lethal 3 point shooting and his international experience would have made him a great stretch four in the international game. In addition, Tucker is a physical, relentless defender and the FIBA style of play is much more physical. There are generally far less foul calls in the international game, which is also why Tucker would have been an ideal fit for Team USA. Tucker also would have been able to provide veteran leadership, as he was the elder statesman on a very young roster. Tucker would have been the oldest player on the team.
To be clear, Tucker withdrawing had nothing to do with the scrimmage against the G-League players or the lack of star power on this roster. The reason he decided against playing is because he sustained an ankle injury and decided the NBA season is far more important than playing for Team USA.
In fact, according to Kelly Iko of the Athletic-Houston, Tucker was really frustrated about not being able to play for his country, and was even thinking about playing through his ankle injury, but decided not to. This was the right decision, considering the fact that the Rockets begin training camp in a little over a month from now. It makes much more sense for Tucker to get healed and rested up, because the Rockets will certainly need him this season.
I’m sure it sucks for Tucker to miss out on playing for Team USA, as he’s never had the opportunity to ever play for the team. However, the NBA season is far more important, especially this coming season for a Rockets team with legitimate title aspirations!