Alando Tucker: Waiting for His Chance
A professional attitude and great mentors give Tucker hope to find a home.
by Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
Since his arrival in the NBA as the 29th pick in 2007, sitting on the bench has been more commonplace than seeing court action for Alando Tucker. After a stellar career at the University of Wisconsin in which he led the team to their first ever #1 ranking in the nation, as well as becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer, Tucker still finds himself looking for an opportunity for playing time in the NBA.
During his first two seasons, it is understandable that he was not able to break into the regular rotation for the Phoenix Suns. They were a team with championship aspirations and plenty of veteran players ahead of him in line. Yet, like a true professional, Tucker used the opportunity to watch some of the best players in the league up close during games, play against them in practice and learn from them.
“You know, there’s nothing that I really need to work on,” Tucker explains. “It’s one of those things in my situation since I came here—and really since I came to the NBA—is just getting the opportunity to get on the court for an extensive amount of minutes.”
“Coming from Phoenix and playing with Grant Hill and Steve Nash, those guys were always telling me how much they know I should be on the court,” says Tucker. “Then Steve would always bring up his career and how in his first couple years he struggled to get comfortable and it wasn’t until his sixth year that he started coming along. He told me that and that gives me confidence and then talking to Grant all the time. Hearing it from those guys, All-Star caliber players, telling me they know I can play in this league and it’s all about opportunity, things like that keep me going.”
A trade in late December brought Tucker to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the worst team in the Western Conference. As a bottom-feeding team, certainly Tucker would be able to see considerable playing time and showcase his abilities, right? That has not been the case, as Tucker finds himself behind players the Timberwolves continue to evaluate for their future with the team, such as Corey Brewer, Wayne Ellington and Sasha Pavlovic.
“Coming here, there are a lot of guys that play similar positions,” says Tucker. “As far as knowing the offense or doing anything wrong out there on the court, I don’t think it’s that. I talked to the coaches and they talked about everything that I’m doing well and he’s been trying to implement me more into the system. I feel really comfortable in practice, I feel really good in the things that I do well, but my mentality is to stay ready and always work hard.”
When things do not go your way, it is easy to slip into a depression and stop giving your best effort. However, Tucker learned from his veteran friends in Phoenix and, although difficult, understands what it means to be a professional in every way.
“That’s been the toughest part because, for me, I’m a fierce competitor,” says Tucker. “I always have been. I feel that if I’m outworking someone or if I’m doing really well in practice, that’s the time that I should be able to play. That’s one of the toughest things to adjust to being in the NBA, realizing that it’s a business. I’ve been doing that since I’ve been in the league and it’s not because of my work ethic. In Phoenix, they talked about it all the time because of the time I put in the weight room, the extra time I put into my shot and really, converted from playing around the basket at Wisconsin to a traditional two and be a slasher and shooter. I put in a lot of hours every day on my shot.”
Times of adversity show a person’s true character by the choices they make and the attitude they choose. Although welcomed by his teammates in Minnesota, Tucker continues to look back at his brief time in Phoenix and the lessons the veterans taught him through their own words and actions. Coming to the end of only his third season in NBA, the maturity Tucker shows is similar to that of a grizzled veteran.
“Control what I can control and that is how hard I work,” said Tucker. “That’s been my motto since I was in college and that is to control what I can and that’s always working hard and always staying ready. Steve Nash and Grant Hill are like my big brothers and that’s one of the things they’ve reiterated to me. Leandro Barbosa too. They’ve talked to me a lot about when I’m able to get a chance to showcase what I have because this league is about confidence. It only comes when you’re playing, so I just try to stay ready and try to stay a great teammate. I’m always encouraging guys, but at the same time, I work because I feel that my opportunity is going to come. I just have to find it somewhere.”
Recently, Kurt Rambis has given court time to Tucker while Wayne Ellington sits out with injury, but what does it mean for Tucker now that Ellington will be back? If he sits at the end of Minnesota’s bench for the remainder of the year unable to show his value to his current team, it may be best for him to move on to yet another team.
“You know, that would totally depend on the moves they make in the summer or if they have big aspirations for me here in the upcoming season. Of course, my agent will look into some things, but I’d love to come back. I love all these guys, they work hard and they’re trying to learn it all together. It totally depends on who they’re going to have here because I feel like I can play and that’s what I want to do. I want to be able to help a team, so if I can help this team out in any type of way from this point on, that’s what I plan on doing.”
Whatever happens for Alando Tucker this summer, one thing is for sure. He will handle it as a professional and with a great attitude.