Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker talks team North Carolina
Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker was back in Raleigh this weekend, one of three former Enloe High School basketball players honored at the school Friday night.
Tucker was recognized as an Enloe Legend alongside Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan and North Carolina Central head coach LeVelle Moton. Tucker, who played three seasons at Texas and is in his 13th year in the NBA, was asked to name an all-time starting five of Raleigh-bred basketball players.
“I don’t know if I have a starting five, I’m not going to lie,” Tucker said standing next to Moton and McMillan. “It’s a lot of people who came through here, it’s hard.”
Tucker started with former Broughton star Shavlik Randolph and current Washington Wizards guard John Wall, before ripping off the names of basketball players, past and present.
“I could go on for days,” Tucker said. “It’s hard to pick just five people because basketball is just bred here.”
North Carolina was the epicenter of the basketball universe over the weekend with the NBA All-Star game taking place in Charlotte. On Saturday night the 3-point shooting contest featured the Curry brothers -- Steph and Seth -- both from Charlotte. Former NC State guard, and Fayetteville native, Dennis Smith Jr., placed second in the Slam-Dunk contest.
Curry (17 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) started for Team Giannis in the All-Star game Sunday night. While Tucker struggled with the question of his Raleigh starting-five, he didn’t hesitant when asked if a roster of current NBA players from North Carolina could make the playoffs.
“Yes,” Tucker said. “No question, right now with just North Carolina guys we make the playoffs. No question.”
Tucker has played with North Carolina natives before. He is currently a teammate of Chris Paul, who was born in Winston-Salem, a player he has known since they were kids. Playing with Paul was part of the reason Tucker signed with the Rockets as a free agent before the start of the 2017 season.
When former N.C. State forward TJ Warren, from Durham, came into the league, Tucker was a member of the Phoenix Suns and Warren was his rookie teammate. Tucker took Warren under his wing and showed him how to be a pro. That was easy since Tucker had known Warren and his family for many years. The duo played together for two seasons in Phoenix.
Taking it a step further, Tucker was asked if Team North Carolina could make it to the NBA finals.
“Maybe,” he said with a very serious look on his face. “I’ve got two Hall of Fame point guards, Hassan Whiteside, you got me. It could get ugly man, I’m telling you. We got T.J. Warren, we got a lot of guys, for sure.”
When asked to name a 10-man roster, Tucker started with himself, Wall, Warren, Paul and Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, who is from Tarboro.
After thinking some more, it was brought to Tuckers’ attention that he hadn’t mention Curry, a two-time NBA MVP and three-time NBA champion.
“Dog, I was waiting,” he said. “Steph was going to be my last, on top like boom!”
He rounded out his roster with a pair of young big men and one more Raleigh native.
“Bam (Adebayo) and Harry (Giles) and Devonte (Graham),” Tucker said. “And then Steph, it’s over, yeah.”
P.J. Tucker’s ALL North Carolina team
F - PJ Tucker (Houston Rockets) - Raleigh
PG - John Wall (Washington Wizards) - Raleigh
F - TJ Warren (Phoenix Suns) - Durham
PG - Chris Paul (Houston Rockets) - Winston-Salem
F - Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Clippers) - Tarboro
C - Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat) - Gastonia
PG - Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors) - Charlotte
F/C - Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat) - Pinetown
F/C - Harry Giles (Sacramento Kings) - Winston-Salem
PG - Devonte Graham (Charlotte Hornets) - Raleigh