Add P.J. Tucker to the list of veteran bigs to be shelved this season. The Houston Rockets forward isn't injured, but he sat out when they played against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday. Tucker is frustrated that the Rockets have not found a trade for him, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon, and coach Stephen Silas confirmed that the team will work on finding him a new home.
"We're going to try to figure out something that works for him and works for us as far as him not being on the team anymore," Silas told reporters, per ESPN. "I was under the assumption that he was going to play tonight and he didn't play. That was disappointing."
Silas added: "He decided that he was just not really with it, and we decided that that's a good idea. Let's move on."
Before this, Tucker, 35, was widely seen as one of the most obvious trade candidates in the NBA. It's easy to imagine him fitting in on a variety of contenders, and he's in the final season of a four-year, $31.9 million contract. While he had previously wanted an extension dating back to the summer of 2019, in January The Athletic's Sam Amick and Kelly Iko reported that Houston had put an offer on the table and he had not accepted it.
Tucker was a crucial part of several James Harden-led teams that punched above their weight through their commitment to unconventional styles on both ends -- he embraced his role as a corner specialist on offense, and his ability to defend significantly bigger and smaller players allowed the Rockets to take switching and smallball to extremes. This season, however, has been different. Tucker's 3-point percentage has dropped from 35.8 percent to 31.4 percent, a reflection of Houston's broader offensive issues since trading Harden and losing Christian Wood to an ankle injury.
The Rockets' 125-105 loss to the Kings extended their losing streak to 14 straight, and falling out of the playoff picture has likely made some difficult decisions much simpler: It's time to fully turn the page on the era that ended with the departures of general manager Daryl Morey and coach Mike D'Antoni. This means trading Tucker, clearly, and it might mean moving holdovers Eric Gordon and Danuel House, too. (Newcomer Victor Oladipo, who is on a $21 million expiring contract, is also the subject of trade speculation.)
As the March 25 trade deadline approaches, it's all but certain that Tucker has played his last game in a Houston uniform. What's unclear is how much his statistical dip has hurt his trade value. Some potential suitors could be concerned that his years of playing heavy, physically demanding minutes have caught up to him. Others could be confident that, with a fresh start, he will look like the same guy he was last season. In theory, he is precisely the type of player who can solidify a contender's rotation and perhaps push a team over the top.