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When the Miami Heat knocked the Philadelphia 76ers out of the NBA Playoffs last season, the Sixers couldn’t help but praise their opponent. While the usual suspects like Jimmy Butler got their fair share of applause from the 76ers, it was PJ Tucker who received unsung hero praise.

Joel Embiid went as far as urging the Sixers’ front office to find a player similar to Tucker to trade for or sign in the offseason. Philadelphia’s President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey went out and got Tucker himself through free agency.

Many were shocked that Tucker intended to decline his player option with the Heat for next season. Since the Heat were coming off of an Eastern Conference Finals run and remained one of the East’s top contenders, it was slightly surprising to find out that the seasoned veteran was going to search for a new location.

After Tucker addressed the Philly media on Monday afternoon for his first press conference as a member of the Sixers, it became clear that landing on the Sixers has been years in the making for the 37-year-old forward.

“Honestly, me and James were trying to come here the year before,” Tucker revealed. “So, I kind of already knew the vibe and the rhythm of the team. It just made sense.”

When Daryl Morey left the Houston Rockets and took on the Sixers job not too long after resigning in Houston, it was apparent that James Harden was on the 76ers’ radar as a potential trade target. 

By now, we know the Sixers attempted to land Harden through trade during the 2021-2022 season. Unfortunately, the Rockets were unwilling to send Harden to South Philly and instead sent him packing to Brooklyn to join the Nets.

While Tucker flew under the radar a bit, there were rumors throughout the 2021-2022 season that Morey and the 76ers were interested in landing him even after they struck out on Harden. But the Rockets traded Tucker to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Fast forward two seasons later, and the Sixers finally have Harden after landing him via trade with the Nets and getting him to re-sign on a two-year deal. As for Tucker, he inked a three-year contract with the Sixers during the opening minutes of free agency.

“When you’re a free agent, I’ve been looking at it all,” Tucker said. “Especially being a vet. I can’t imagine playing for a team that’s not fighting for a championship anymore. Being in a situation you feel like you can’t win, I couldn’t do that. So, picking the best situation for me and checking all the boxes, it just checked all the boxes.”

On Tuesday, Tucker and Harden will participate in their first training camp with the Sixers. Although Tucker had a medical procedure done in recent weeks, Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers assured everybody that Tucker is a full go to begin preseason activities. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.