October 20, 2021 | 9:48 am EDT Update
Tucker declined to discuss the offer he received from the Bucks in free agency. “I was pretty surprised,” Tucker said of not ending up back with the Bucks. “You win a championship and you’re part of winning something special like that, you would expect that. A chance of it not happening? There’s a chance. It didn’t happen. Does it happen a lot? I don’t think so, not in that situation, not in those situations. You watch role guys in series in the past, usually those guys go back. So I’ll take my situation as just that, a particular situation. I move on from it and keep it going.”
Tucker was successful in helping the Bucks win a championship in July, but just three months later he’ll be facing his former team as a member of the Heat. “I don’t even want to talk about it,” Tucker said when asked about specifics regarding his departure from Milwaukee. “It’s that far removed from my mind now. Like it’s something that happened. Everything worked out. I’m happy where I’m at. And I move on.”
But Thursday’s matchup against the Bucks feels somewhat personal for at least one player on the Heat’s roster, and he actually won an NBA championship with Milwaukee last season: Veteran forward P.J. Tucker. “I mean, come on, we’re competitors. I was part of that,” Tucker said this week of facing his former team on Thursday at FTX Arena (8 p.m., Bally Sports Sun). “To not be back? For sure. You know it’s like natural human behavior. Definitely, I want to win this game better than I want to win any other game. Yes, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t.”
There’s an expectation that Williamson will resume play under a minutes restriction when he does take the floor, sources said, typical for stars returning from injury. But with Williamson, who bristled at the training wheels Pelicans officials placed on his reintegration from a torn meniscus injury as a rookie, it could be a higher-stakes game of poker.
When he joined the Pelicans’ recent preseason trip to Minnesota, several league personnel on hand were struck by his heavier appearance than his listed playing weight last season of 284 pounds. “I know Zion at 280, and he was not 280,” said one observer. “These are the injuries you have to be the most concerned about, a foot injury for a guy with noted weight issues,” said one Western Conference executive.
There’s a strong belief in league circles that the Pelicans were unaware of that procedure until Williamson reported to New Orleans ahead of media day, although one team source contacted by B/R maintained the Pelicans and Williamson were aligned on the injury’s timeline.
Before Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin addressed reporters last Thursday, word was already circling around the league that Williamson was unlikely to make his 2021-22 debut before November, at the earliest. It was even known in rival front offices that Griffin planned to speak on the matter rather than issue a press release. This all comes after league figures raised a collective eyebrow when Griffin blamed Williamson’s season-ending finger injury on poor officiating.
Tatum’s post-COVID-19 recovery ramp-up saw him turn into one of the league’s top free-throw machines, drawing 7.6 a night in the final 18 games of the regular season. It started with his 53-point explosion against Minnesota on April 9, which seemed to be his springboard to the next level of his game. That would have ranked him seventh in the league for the season, right between fellow Hanlen client Bradley Beal and James Harden. He was averaging just 4.4 free throw attempts per game up to that point but kept it going in the playoffs with four double-digit free-throw attempt nights in six games (including the Play-In Tournament game against Beal’s Wizards) and going 62 of 66 overall in those games.