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Hard Work Overseas Pays Off For P.J. Tucker In Signing With The Phoenix Suns

P.J. Tucker's time with Spartak St. Petersburg lasted nearly a month and didn't even include a formal jersey raising press conference or extend to the court.

Next stop Phoenix.

Utilizing the NBA-out clause in the one-year deal he signed in Russia at the end of June, Tucker welcomed an invitation to play with the Phoenix Suns at the Las Vegas Summer League and parlayed the two-week stint into a multi-year deal with the Suns.

Tucker is coming off a season where he helped lead powerhouse Brose Baskets Bamberg -- by averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds per game during the regular season -- to their third-straight Beko BBL title in Germany and walked away with the MVP Finals trophy. But making it back to the NBA and proving he belongs has been on Tucker's heart and mind ever since his time with the Toronto Raptors and trip to the D-League ended poorly during the 2006-07 season.

So, instead of getting lost in the overseas shuffle over the last five-years, the 6'5 forward put in hard work on the court and matured off of the floor.

"The way I look at it now, I've grown up so much since then as a pro. It's unbelievable," Tucker told Ridiculous Upside back in March in Bamberg, Germany.

"I'm one of the realist players there is with myself. So until guys can become real with themselves and look at their careers and ask, ‘where did I mess up', it's only then that they can admit they could have handled a situation better. That way, going forward you know how the make the most out of each situation."

Knowing where Tucker has come from and where he is now in signing with Phoenix, it's clear the former Big-12 Player of the Year at Texas (an eventually the 35th overall pick by Toronto in 2006) has made the most of each situation he's been overseas.

From being named MVP in Israel, a scoring leader in the Ukraine, time playing in Italy, Puerto Rico, Greece and even his success this last season in Germany, Tucker has matured each step along the way -- and so has his game. More well-rounded, versatile and entrenched in a team basketball systems with a stressed focus on defense, the move back to the league with Phoenix comes at the height of Tucker's basketball upside.

"At 26-years-old, I'm just hitting my prime and have a lot of game left. My game has really involved. I feel that my game has always been versatile, but now I'm able to play multiple positions, play better defense and my shot has gotten better. All around my game has improved and it's from being here. And that's what I tell a lot of young guys -- if you get the chance to come to Europe and play and get better, your game will change so much and you will mature as a player."

In Las Vegas, Tucker averaged 5.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game. And while those numbers won't scream All-Star, his competitive nature and on-court leadership is an underlying value to the Suns as they begin to re-vamp their roster after the Steve Nash-era came to an end this month.

"First and foremost, I'm going to help the young guys and always be a positive voice in the locker room. I look at myself as a defensive player first but I can rebound and handle the ball," Tucker told The Arizona Republic.

"I just stick my neck out and play hard. I never let anyone outwork me."

That goes for if Tucker gets minutes as a starter or comes off of the bench for head coach Alvin Gentry. The role may change but the mind-set remains the same.

While Bamberg placed an offer for Tucker on the table months ago to return for another run at a title in Germany, he has instead agreed to play for half of what he would have made with Brose Baskets and is looking ahead to the exposure and experience an opportunity in Phoenix presents for his overall career.

Call it a second chance at a first impression.

This truly is a win-win situation for P.J. Tucker and the Phoenix Suns.