P.J. Tucker‘s reputation as a fan favorite known for his selfless team play has seen better days. According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, Tucker was arrested for a “super extreme” DUI in Scottsdale back in May, posting a blood alcohol content level of .222 after a blood test in jail. The breathalyzer test performed by police after they pulled Tucker over on May 10 revealed a blood alcohol level of .201.
A super extreme DUI is the actual term for a DUI with a BAC of .20 or more. In Arizona, a driver qualifies for a DUI charge at .08.
This is particularly disturbing news considering what a breakout season P.J. Tucker had with the Phoenix Suns in 2013-14. Tucker averaged 9.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting 38.7 percent from three-point range and usually took on the team’s toughest defensive assignment as well. Tucker’s hustle, scrappy play and attitude made him a vocal leader for the Suns and a fan favorite.
But any time you put yourself and others in danger by stepping behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated, especially that intoxicated, whatever you’ve accomplished on a basketball court isn’t going to mean as much anymore. Luckily, no one was injured that night, but Tucker’s actions are certainly disappointing to a lot of Suns fans who always viewed him as a team-first leader in the locker room.
Never an excuse for a DUI. But especially not in an uber city.
— Nate Jones (@JonesOnTheNBA) July 29, 2014
So what does Tucker’s super extreme DUI mean for the Phoenix Suns, especially in light of the fact that they just re-signed him to a slightly overpriced three-year, $16.5 million contract?
For now, the Suns have declined to comment on the situation until everything is resolved in court. If Tucker is found guilty of a super extreme DUI, that’s a minimum of 45 days in jail, but that sentence can be reduced if Tucker agrees to install an ignition interlock device in his car and submits himself to house arrest (which, considering his new contract, you’d expect him to).
The Suns shouldn’t be pitied just yet for signing Tucker to a shiny new deal right before this horrible news broke, though. According to Coro, the Suns were aware of the charges facing Tucker before they re-signed their restricted free agent to that overly generous deal. On the one hand, a lot of fans’ initial reaction might be negative since management knew about this and still overpaid Tucker to keep him in Phoenix.
However, as much as driving under the influence is wrong in any situation, the Suns did the right thing here, and not just for basketball reasons. Tucker’s selfish decision has damaged his reputation among fans and he’ll have to work very hard on and off the court to earn that trust back. But if the whole point of sports is teamwork, then what kind of organization would the Suns be if they didn’t support one of their own and try to get him some help in his time of need?
The NBA can also punish Tucker following the court verdict and he may be suspended for a few games next season. But by placing their faith in Tucker and re-signing him to a deal in spite of this awful news, the Suns are in a position to give him the help he needs. That’s not a lot of consolation to a ton of disappointed Phoenix Suns fans, but hopefully it’s enough to keep him from ever getting behind the wheel in an inebriated state again.
Tucker gave the Suns everything he had on the court last season. He scrapped and fought and clawed his way into the starting lineup and into fans’ hearts. He made a huge mistake in the offseason, but now it’s time for the Suns to scrap and fight for P.J. Tucker. No one should condone the notion that it’s okay for anyone to drink and drive, especially when it comes to professional athletes who find themselves in trouble with the law. But anyone who watched the Suns last season saw that team become a family, and family shouldn’t ever give up on one of their own.