In spreading the welcome mat for P.J. Tucker yesterday, the Bucks completed a relatively lengthy process that began when the Rockets decided to park their erstwhile workhorse in favor of a complete rebuild early this month. True, his play had deteriorated of late; in fact, his numbers so far this season represent the lowest in his nine-year National Basketball Association career. On the other hand, there can be no questioning his grit; in fact, it’s precisely what has driven him to succeed against all odds after being selected in the second round of the 2006 draft, and what has enabled him to stay even-keeled in the face of his professional roller-coaster ride.

Certainly, the Bucks are confident Tucker’s depressed stats reflect his lack of motivation given his contract status. As early as in the offseason, he had shown his disappointment with the Rockets for their apparent unwillingness to, in his estimation, properly value his contributions. Apart from reporting late for training camp, he was, no doubt, also unnerved by James Harden’s holdout and subsequent departure. Sufficiently motivated, he — at least from the point of view of his new employers — looks to remain a valuable contributor to their championship aspirations.

The Bucks have reason for their optimism. After all, they’re right in the thick of things, having won 10 of their last 11 contests and crowding the Sixers and Nets at the top of the Eastern Conference. Contrast that with the woeful standing of the Rockets, who have lost 18 straight matches and are next to last in the West. Considering that Tucker will once again be casting moist eyes on a title ring from a much-closer vantage point, it’s clear that he will not be lacking in motivation. He may be an old 35 and bruised from years of burning rubber as an undersized center, but he remains resolute in the face of unique challenges.

In any case, Tucker will help in one particular area the Bucks are mediocre at best: employing switches critical to containing dynamic offenses. Following disappointing finishes in their last two postseason campaigns, head coach Mike Budenholzer finally got the drift and directed a pronounced increase in the frequency of their switching defenses. He’ll be a big boost in this regard, especially in tandem with reigning Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo. If there’s any question mark, it’s the swoon in his accuracy from behind the arc.

All things considered, though, Tucker should be a decided plus the Bucks. By all accounts, his veteran presence has been invariably welcome in the locker room and on the court, and he figures to exert the same influence in his new digs. The fact that they willingly gave up what remained of their draft assets in order to get him speaks volumes of their high regard for him. Little wonder, then, that they’re gung-ho. With due respect to Harden, he may yet prove to be the most impactful transfer from the Rockets to the East.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.