Playing for the United States men’s national basketball team has been a learning experience for P.J. Tucker, despite his status as a grizzled NBA veteran.
The Houston Rockets swingman told reporters Thursday his national team experience is teaching him a lot about players he previously only had known as opponents. One such player Tucker has reevaluated recently is Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, whom he now describes in one complimentary term.
“Honestly, I swear all these guys are better than I realized,” Tucker said, per USA Basketball’s website. “It is crazy, playing against people a couple times a year is one thing but when you get here and you’re working every day, or you see how these guys work.
“All these young guys like De’Aaron Fox is amazing, he is way better than I thought he was, not saying I didn’t think he was good, but he is really, really good. I play Donovan (Mitchell) all the time with Utah so I know how good he is, but he’s been really great. Jayson Tatum is great. All these guys, I’m serious, top to bottom, all these guys are really good, and they are really going to be great in their individual careers.”
Tucker, 34, has faced Tatum, 21, just four times in the last two seasons. Tatum averaged just 11.8 points per game against the Rockets, and Houston won three out of four of those contests.
Tatum and Tucker are among the players competing for spots on Team USA’s roster for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. As original call-ups, they’ll have good chances of appearing on the final roster, which head coach Gregg Popovich will announce Saturday.
Tucker then should have opportunity to watch Tatum closely for another four weeks, as the U.S. will vie for its third consecutive world championship between Aug. 31 in Sept. 15 in China.
Thumbnail photo via Erik Williams/USA TODAY Sports Images