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Bucks land PJ Tucker from Rockets for playoff push

Tucker joined Bucks for first practice: 'I was nipping at the bit today. It feels good just to have my battery recharged.'

MILWAUKEE — P.J. Tucker says a move to the championship-contending Milwaukee Bucks offers the 35-year-old veteran a breath of fresh air and a chance to turn around a frustrating season.

Tucker practiced with his new team Friday after the Bucks officially announced they had acquired the 6-foot-5 forward along with guard Rodions Kurucs from the Houston Rockets The Bucks sent guard D.J. Augustin plus forward D.J. Wilson to Houston.

As part of the trade, the Bucks gave up their 2021 and 2023 first-round picks and got back their own 2022 first-round pick and the Rockets’ 2021 second-round selection.

“Man, I was nipping at the bit today to get in practice, to get in there just to hit bodies and talk and be with the guys,” Tucker said. “It felt great. It feels good just to have my battery recharged.”

Tucker gives the Bucks a solid defender and quality 3-point shooter – especially from the corners – as they bid for their first NBA title since 1971. Bucks general manager Jon Horst said in a statement that Tucker “checks all the boxes” with his versatility and all-around game.

“His defense is at an elite level,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Budenholzer cited “his ability to guard multiple positions, his ability to guard the best players in the league, the physicality he brings to that level of the court, the playoff experience he brings and the ability to space the court, make 3’s, play the right way, play smart with high basketball IQ.”

Tucker hasn’t played in a game since March 3 but is expected to be available Saturday when the Bucks host the San Antonio Spurs.

The Rockets said last week they were attempting to trade Tucker, who is in the final season of a $31.8 million, four-year contract.

Tucker had started each of the 32 games in which he appeared and was averaging 4.4 points as the Rockets have struggled after dealing Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Tucker was shooting 31.4% from 3-point range but had been a more reliable 3-point shooter in previous seasons.

“It’s been a frustrating year from all standpoints,” Tucker said.

Tucker leaves behind a team that was near the bottom of the Western Conference standings to join a club competing for the top seed in the East.

The Rockets have suffered a franchise-record 19 consecutive losses, including a 113-100 setback against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. The Bucks (26-14) have won five straight games and nine of their last 10, putting them 1 1/2 games behind Philadelphia and Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference standings.

“I feel like we’ve got a chance to win a championship and do something special,” Tucker said.

The addition of Tucker continues the reshaping of Milwaukee’s roster that began with the offseason acquisition of Jrue Holiday.

Tucker looks forward to the opportunity to play with two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“As soon as I see Giannis today, he looked at me and I looked at him and we both said the same thing,” Tucker said. “He was like, ‘I don’t have to go against you no more.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, and I don’t have to guard you anymore.’ We both laughed because we’ve had some epic battles going at it. It definitely will be nice to be on the same side now.”

The Bucks acquired Tucker along with the 23-year-old Kurucs, who has played in 16 games for Brooklyn and Houston this season.

Augustin, 33, was averaging 6.1 points, 3 assists and 19.3 minutes in his first season with Milwaukee after spending four seasons in Orlando. The 25-year-old Wilson had averaged 3.6 points in 12 games this season and hadn’t been able to work his way into the Bucks’ rotation.