When P.J. Tucker was selected in the second round of the 2006 draft, he was widely considered an undersized forward without a true role in the league. He quickly became an afterthought and left for greater opportunities overseas.
But Tucker has since returned to the NBA while developing into one of the most reliable defensive players in the league. Now with the Houston Rockets, the 6-foot-6 veteran has welcomed the difficult task of slowing down Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant in the Western Conference semifinals.
"I got the utmost respect for Kevin," Tucker said, according to ESPN's Marc J. Spears. "I take pride in it. This is something I want to do. I can't wait to guard Kevin Durant. Nobody wants to guard Kevin Durant. I respect Pat (Beverley) for stepping up and saying, 'I got him' (in the first round). Nobody wants to do that.
"Everybody dreams about scoring 30, getting the game-winner. No, no, no, not me. I love my role. I love what I do. … It sounds crazy, but this is my dream. I'm living my dream right now guarding Kevin Durant in the NBA playoffs."
Before returning to the NBA, the 34-year-old Tucker bounced around a number of countries and played for seven different clubs from 2007-12.
"Right now, while I’m in the playoffs, I don't try to look back at it," Tucker said. "I remember it. It keeps me ticking. It keeps me going. It keeps me strong. But it makes me super humble to be here with every game, every moment. People ask me why I play so hard. I say, 'I'm happy to be here.' For real."
Tucker's value has grown in the current small-ball era of the NBA, allowing him to log minutes at power forward and center despite being considered too short for those positions in the past.
In the 2018-19 regular season, he started all 82 games for Houston while averaging 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds.
The Rockets are currently down 2-1 to the Warriors in their second-round series ahead of Game 4 on Monday.