Following a busy day filled with photoshoots, individual interviews, and press conferences in Camden, New Jersey, the Philadelphia 76ers packed their bags and took off to Charleston, South Carolina, for the start of training camp.
Before heading down to another state to participate in practice sessions, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers and President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey mentioned that they wanted to travel for camp this season so the team could focus solely on building chemistry before the 82-game season.
Over the summer, the Sixers’ 2022-2023 roster got together in Los Angeles to start building team bonding. Those group sessions were led by some of the team’s newer veterans, such as the re-signed star guard James Harden and the newly-signed veteran PJ Tucker.
Going into the 2022 offseason, the 76ers wanted to target a player like Tucker as the entire organization believed he was an X-factor against them in the second round of the playoffs. When Tucker declined his player option with the Miami Heat for next season, it was realized that signing Tucker could be an option for Philadelphia.
Sure enough, Tucker inked a three-year deal with the Sixers in the opening minutes of free agency. Considering his age, many believed that a three-year deal worth over $33 million is a hefty price for a 37-year-old veteran.
But following the first set of action at training camp in Charleston, it seems Tucker is already making a significant impact on the court as he’s Doc Rivers’ top standout through day one.
“PJ stands out, especially defensively,” said Rivers, according to Sixers Wire’s Ky Carlin. “When he’s on the floor, when he’s off the floor, it is night and day, and that’s why we’re challenging guys because PJ’s not playing 48 minutes.”
A lack of toughness on the court is an area where the Sixers believed they came up too short in the playoffs last season. 76ers star Joel Embiid thought that a veteran like PJ Tucker could immediately boost their chances of making a deep run because Tucker’s confident mentality matched with his two-way skill set often boosts the guys around him.
“[It’s not] not just his defense — just his talking and his knowledge,” Rivers continued, per Carlin. “He came through the (Pat) Riley system. I came through the Riley system, so for him, defensively, it’s very easy to pick up everything. We need more of that from more people. It starts more with team defense than individual defense, and that’s where a PJ Tucker, who’s a great talker, immediately helps your team defense.”
The Sixers have a lot to work on over the next week, but it seems Tucker is already causing quite the impact on his new squad through one session of action.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.