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SALT LAKE CITY. PJ Tucker sat on the bench with a towel over his head during the final minutes of the 76ers’ home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.

The image became increasingly common in the fourth quarter and summed up the frustration of Tucker’s Sixers tenure so far. The veteran forward – and summer signing noted for his reputation for defence, toughness and championship pedigree – admitted the first half of the regular season “wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be”. That he’s logged three total fourth-quarter minutes in his last five games, heading into Saturday night at the Utah Jazz, has him balancing the “natural human emotion” of going down and letting “coaches be coaches and do what they feel are the best.”

Tucker also said repeatedly during Saturday morning’s interview with The Inquirer that it’s up to him to “figure it out” as his team begins a crucial five-game Western Conference road trip.

“Being who I am and being the guy that proved to my previous coaches that I can’t no be on the floor,” Tucker said, “be in a position I’ve never been in, where I’m not playing, and I still have to stay positive. You still have to be a professional.

“It’s a push and pull of everything…what you’re used to and what you’re doing, what you came here to do.”

” READ MORE. Sixers mailbag. “Any chance we’ll see DeAnthony Melton in the starting lineup over PJ Tucker?”

Tucker is playing for his third team in less than two calendar years after being traded to the NBA title-winning Milwaukee Bucks at the 2021 deadline and spending last season with a Miami Heat team that finished with the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference. . However, the 37-year-old forward said it’s especially difficult to find his footing on this Sixers team, especially because of the many roster changes due to various health issues. Tucker entered Saturday averaging 3.3 points per game, his lowest since averaging 1.8 in 17 games as a rookie in 2006-07, and 4.3 rebounds in 27.2 minutes per game.

“It’s different on other teams when you’ve been in there and kind of carved out your space on the team and your identity has been established,” Tucker said. “It’s much easier. … No two days were the same [with the Sixers]. Every game has been different.

“It’s a weird place where I just have to figure it out. That’s where I stand with it. There is no other way to explain it.”

Tucker has never been a heavy scorer, entering Saturday averaging 6.9 points on 5.9 field goals in his 12-year career. But on this roster, he realized “I’m not going to get the looks” he got at previous stops, where he became a prolific corner three-point shooter in addition to his more under-the-radar role. duties such as keeping possessions alive by grabbing offensive rebounds and loose balls, as well as getting physical by defending opponents of all sizes. He had one or no hits in 11 of 39 games and was scoreless in 12 entering Saturday.

He also drew criticism from the outside for a lack of offensive production, responding with “a smile and a laugh.”

“They talk about how much I don’t score,” Tucker said. “Can you imagine playing 30 minutes and scoring one shot? Maybe not shoot at all? And you still have to protect the best player and do all the dirty work, knowing that you won’t get the usual reward of being able to shoot the ball and attack, which everyone wants to do.

“It’s a job. It’s not something someone just picks in the NBA.”

” READ MORE. Midway through the NBA, the Sixers sit in a solid position in the wide-open Eastern Conference.

However, this is the first time Tucker has established himself as a core rotation player without being a regular regular for a significant length of time. He said he and coach Doc Rivers didn’t have clear conversations about the reasons for the fourth-quarter absence.

One positive thing. Tucker said his health is improving. The sinus infection that kept him out of last Sunday’s win over the Detroit Pistons is clearing up. The nerve issue in his neck is a “daily process” that he continues to manage.

So Tucker will continue to try to figure it out. He believes the quest can also apply to his team, which has played fewer than 10 games with its opening night starters and could be without Tobias Harris and Georges Niang against the Jazz.

“That’s the scary part of still being pretty good,” Tucker said of the Sixers, who entered Saturday 25-16, “to feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface with the talent we have on this team.

“We can match up with anybody in the entire league. during the period”.



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