Overseas vs. the NBA With P.J. Tucker
Since being selected with the No. 35 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors, P.J. Tucker has undergone a basketball odyssey that has taken him from the NBA, to around the world, and now back to the NBA. Signed by the Suns this summer after five years of playing overseas, the small forward chatted with me about the humorous differences between playing abroad and in the NBA.
Suns.com: True or false? Bags are delivered to your room overseas.
P.J. Tucker: (laughs) False. Nobody is delivering any bags and you’re going to have your bags the whole time.
Suns.com: True or false? You fly commercial overseas.
Tucker: Actually both. I was on a really good team, so I flew private. Our owners had planes, so we flew private and commercial.
Suns.com: What’s the difference between flights in the NBA and over there?
Tucker: Our flights were a lot smaller. There wasn’t a lot of room. There were the same amount of seats as there were players.
Suns.com: True or false? You can get a new pair of sneakers for every game overseas.
Tucker: True and false. I did, but everybody doesn’t have that. I still had my Nike deal. But for the most part, most players keep their sneakers throughout the whole year.
Suns.com: Did your Nike deal get a financial bump when you returned to the NBA?
Tucker: Nah, I went back to my NBA deal then.
Suns.com: Do players have shoe contracts overseas?
Tucker: Yes. There are a few players that have shoe deals, but not many. Maybe only five players over there have one. (Former Pacers guard) Sarunas Jasikevicius had one.
Suns.com: True or false? There are players more talented overseas than some players in the NBA.
Tucker: True. There are some real talented players that have never played in the NBA and that are definitely NBA players.
Suns.com: Do you have one in mind?
Tucker: Ioannis Bourousis. He’s a Greek center. No doubt that he could play in the NBA.
Suns.com: What about Baby Shaq (Sofoklis Schortsanitis)?
Tucker: Baby Shaq is good, but I don’t think he’s as good as Bourousis. Bourousis is really good.
Suns.com: True or false? You stayed in the best hotels in the cities you traveled to overseas.
Tucker: False. Not necessarily. We would stay in good hotels, but not the best. No so much.
Suns.com: True or false? You received per diem (cash given daily on trips) overseas.
Tucker: No sir. They would have lunch and dinner for the team though.
Suns.com: Did they have incentives in your contract for the amount of dunks, wins, points and other stats like that overseas?
Tucker: I did for being MVP of the league and stuff like that. Not for the small incidentals though. There are countries that do that. China does that. A lot of Asian countries do that. Puerto Rico will do that, but Europe doesn’t do that very much.
Suns.com: True or false? You play more games in a week here than over there.
Tucker: True. You play a lot more games here.
Suns.com: True or false? You play 10-minute quarters over there, as opposed to 12-minute quarters here.
Suns.com: True or false? Foreign women only want to date American basketball players.
Tucker: (laughs) False. I wouldn’t say only, but they definitely like American basketball players.
Suns.com: Which country in particular?
Tucker: Israel, for sure.
Suns.com: True or false? Dirk Nowitzki is the most famous person in Germany, even over David Hasselhoff.
Tucker: No doubt about it. Dirk Nowitzki is definitely the most famous person in Germany.
Suns.com: What was your “I’m back in the NBA” moment from a superficial point of view.
Tucker: The small stuff, like being able to eat American food and go to sleep in my own house. And definitely hearing English on TV.
Suns.com: What’s one thing about playing in the NBA that is a lot more glamorous than playing overseas?
Tucker: The arenas. The stadiums are always bigger here. It’s the NBA, so there’s always a little more hype and flair to it.
Suns.com: What was the weirdest in-arena show you saw over there?
Tucker: In the Ukraine, we went to this small city. The city was so tiny that it shouldn’t have even been in the first division. And when we went out on the court, their mascot was on a unicycle with a pole. He wasn’t very good and was about to kill everybody around him. He actually fell over and hurt one of our players. He ran over his foot and our player couldn’t play. Our owner went crazy! It was a big deal. He really had no idea what he was doing. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my life.
Suns.com: What’s the craziest thing you ever saw anyone throw at a player overseas?
Tucker: In Turkey, they’re good for lighting up coins and making them really hot before throwing them on the court and at the players on the bench.
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