Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, increasingly frustrated that he has yet to be traded to a contender, was a healthy scratch on Thursday night and uncertainty remains about when he’ll return to the lineup, sources told ESPN.
The Rockets have had several concurrent trade discussions with teams in recent weeks involving Tucker, talks expected to result in a deal for Tucker before the March 25 trade deadline, sources said.
So far, the Rockets preference for a young, productive rotation player in trade talks has been a sticking point with teams, who haven’t willing to part with that kind of an asset for a 35-year-old on an expiring contract, sources said.
Tucker traveled with the Rockets to Sacramento and warmed up prior to the game, but didn’t suit up to join the team on the bench. He hadn’t been listed on the injury report.
Tucker, 35, has been an essential role player during his 3 ½-year tenure with the Rockets, contributing significantly more than his averages of 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game indicate. He often defended the opponent’s top scorer – playing center despite standing only 6-foot-5 during Houston’s short-lived small-ball experiment last season – and primarily served as a corner 3-point threat who spaced the floor offensively. Tucker is in the final season of a four-year, $32 million deal. The Rockets didn’t guarantee the final year of the deal until February 2020.
Tucker, who played in 267 consecutive games until a bruised thigh sidelined him for two games in February, reported late to training camp this fall and acknowledged that he felt unappreciated after discussions about a contract extension broke down.
The Rockets thought they were close to signing Tucker to a two-year extension for $17 million with $10 million guaranteed, sources said, but the Houston front office balked after Tucker’s camp countered with a proposal for a fully guaranteed two-year deal worth $24 million.
Tucker has struggled this season amid the Rockets’ roster shuffling following the trades of Russell Westbrook and James Harden, posting career lows in points per game (4.4), field goal percentage (36.6%) and 3-point percentage (31.4%).