P.J. Tucker wasn’t a high draft pick and actually is undersized by NBA standards.
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, the Houston Rockets forward’s intensity and defensive grit helps him overachieve against taller opponents on a nightly basis.
Off the court, Tucker also defies the norm.
He has spent years curating a wardrobe that has helped his style ascend to the upper echelons of fashion.
Tucker was in the Balmain store in Paris during this year’s NBA All-Star break when the manager told him there was a special one-of-a-kind piece that would be perfect for him.
When Tucker first laid eyes on the beaded haute couture jacket at the French luxury fashion house he loved it, but was certain it wouldn’t fit his muscular 245-pound frame.
”Everybody in fashion knows of those must-have pieces where you’re just like: `I’ve got to have it,”’ Tucker said. ”And I had to have this.”
Then he learned the price of the black and gold open front jacket: $25,000.
”I had no idea. I was like: `Oh all right, that’s cool,” he said with a nervous laugh. ”I was at the point of no return.”
But before Tucker could wear his most expensive fashion investment, he learned there were actually two of his ”one-of-a-kind jacket” when he saw NBA super fan and eccentric 78-year-old millionaire James Goldstein sporting the same piece while courtside at a game .
”He came up and told me he has the same jacket,” Goldstein told The Associated Press on Wednesday while wearing a different Balmain jacket. ”I couldn’t believe it.”
A stunned Goldstein didn’t realize that Tucker was so into fashion.
”I’ve never seen him except on the basketball court so I don’t know how he dresses otherwise,” Goldstein said. ”But when he told me he had that jacket, one that both of us thought we each had a unique jacket that nobody else had, I gained a new respect for him.”
Tucker has also gained his share of respect on the court.
He scored a playoff career-high 22 points Wednesday night in a win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. He is an integral part of the Rockets’ success with his ability to shoot the 3 and hold his own in the low post.
But Tucker had to work to find an NBA home. He wasn’t a highly regarded draft pick out of Texas; Toronto selected him in the second round in the 2006 draft. He spent just one year in the NBA before heading to Europe to play.
It was during those 4 1/2 years overseas that he started taking his fashion seriously.
”It wasn’t a moment
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,” he said. ”It was just being there. It started out with suits. Seeing European guys wear suits was incredible. And it wasn’t all like the big fashion house expensive suits, it was like simple stuff but the way the older men dressed in Europe just absolutely amazed me.
”In Italy, in France the way the older men dressed was incredible.”
Like his game on the court, his fashion wasn’t immediately embraced back in the United States.
”I would come home in the summertime and people would look at me like: `What in the world does he have on,”’ said Tucker, who breezed into the room to talk with AP about fashion with a coffee cup in one hand, two clothing bags draped over the other arm and a large Louis Vuitton duffel bag slung over his shoulder.
Tucker, who describes his style as adventurous and spontaneous, beamed while explaining that he assembled three looks for the interview. The first was what he calls his ”anywhere outfit,” a floral-print short-sleeved button-down Dries Van Noten shirt with coordinating cream-colored pants from the same designer, and Nike Air Max 1 shoes with a brown suede accent on the toe.
His summer ensemble featured a blue and white striped Balenciaga shirt adorned with piece of striking yellow fabric that ran down half the length of the back and white Alexander McQueen trousers. He finished off that look with the impossible-to-get Off-White X Nike Air Force 1 shoes.
But the star of the collection was his final look: a made-to-measure plaid Gucci two-button suit with cropped pants, which he wore without a shirt.
”It’s really like a 70s suit
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, with the large cuffs, with the huge lapels,” he said. ”Nobody would wear that a year or two ago but now I love it.”
He said there’s nothing he won’t wear and scoffs at people who think he should limit his wardrobe because he’s such a big guy.
”People get so scared to try things,” he said. ”I think the way you dress should be fun. Wearing stuff that people don’t normally wear or wouldn’t particularly think is their style, I love that.
”I think that’s fun and I think everybody should do it.”
When he debuted his Balmain jacket before Game 1 of the conference finals, which he paired with black skinny jeans and Saint Laurent boots, not everyone was a fan.
”’You’re like a bull fighter in the jacket,”’ he said his teammates told him. ”Maybe. I love it though. It’s funny.”
One person who’s totally on board with Tucker’s style is teammate James Harden. The pair often arrive at the same time and have turned arriving at the arena into a mini fashion show .
”He loves walking in the arena with the swaggiest `fit,” Harden said. ”That’s what he does and I’m here for it. I have his back 1,000 percent.”
While Tucker doesn’t mind that pictures of his p In his first home Stanley Cup Final game after 13 long years checkered with as many disappointments as milestones, Alex Ovechkin was not going to be denied the opportunity to do something special.
He played with an edge. He played with joy. And he played with the leadership his Washington Capitals have come to expect.
Ovechkin dived to the ice to score his 14th goal of the playoffs, laid down to block shots
, dished out hits and, along with Evgeny Kuznetsov, muscled the Capitals past the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 on Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Showing the kind of emotion on the ice and the bench from his younger days, Ovechkin led the way and now has Washington two wins away from the first championship in the 43-year history of the franchise.
”It’s the Stanley Cup Final,” Ovechkin said. ”What do you wanna do? It’s all in for everybody.”
The Capitals suddenly look in complete control of the series thanks to Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, who fired a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury that made it perfectly clear the injury that knocked him out of Game 2 was not bothering him. Invoking Michael Jordan’s 63-point game on a broken foot and 38-point game with the flu, Kuznetsov said: ”When you’re hurt, you play a little better always.”
It doesn’t get much better than this for Kuznetsov and Ovechkin. As Kuznetsov flapped his arms in celebration of his goal on a 2-on-1 rush, Ovechkin screamed and raised his arms to the bench – showing the same emotion he did in the final minutes of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final and when Braden Holtby made a stick save of a lifetime to preserve a 3-2 win in Game 2.
”It’s just automatic. You just get excited,” Ovechkin said. ”It’s huge moments for us. You just want to give emotion to your teammates and to yourself, as well.”
Fired up for the first Cup Final game in Washington since 1998, the Capitals unloaded chance after chance on Fleury , who made 23 saves but couldn’t backstop a frazzled, disjointed team that lost two games in a row for the first time in the playoff and is trailing in a series for the first time.
At the other end, Braden Holtby gifted Tomas Nosek a goal by giving the puck away but stopped the other 21 shots he faced from the Golden Knights, who looked nothing like the winners of 13 of their first 16 playoff games through the first three rounds.
”All year we’ve had a lot of guys going,” Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland said. ”That hasn’t been the case. Our goalie’s been bailing us out with huge saves all night and we have to bear down and be better for him.”
The Golden Knights’ historic run in its inaugural season is now in danger of coming to an end with Game 4 back in Washington on Monday night.
”We haven’t been behind in any series,” Fleury said. ”It doesn’t mean we’re out of it.”
They’re not out, but they’re down because Holtby was there when the Capitals needed him by making 21 saves on 22 shots. Of course, they didn’t need him much because they were on the attack for much of the game and also blocked 26 shots in front of Holtby.
”I think there’s more to blocking shots than just going out there and trying to get hit,” Holtby said. ”We’re doing a great job of creating the right layers, guys going out there strategically to know which lane I’m picking for sight lines and they’re taking away the other half and making big blocks. That’s a huge part of why we’re having success defensively because it’s all through our lineup.”
Ovechkin attempted eight shots in the first period and scored a goal that seemed inevitable. It came 1:10 into the second period when Ovechkin threw himself full extension over Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb to reach the rebound and backhand the puck past Fleury.
”I thought it was sort of the right thing in a playoff game, our first victory in the final at home, that Alex would score the first goal ,” coach Barry Trotz said. ”I thought that was a little bit of poetic justice if you will for all the tough times.
Ovechkin’s goal matched John Druce’s franchise record set in 1990 and tied him for the league lead in these playoffs.
When Kuznetsov showed his injured left arm is just fine by scoring on a perfect shot on an odd-man rush, Ovechkin looked to the ceiling with his arms extended as he was hugged by Lars Eller.
”Ovi, he always shows his emotions when he scores, but he’ll be just as happy for somebody else scoring,” Eller said. ”He wants to win as bad as anyone. You see how our team celebrates when somebody else scores. Everybody is happy for one another and everybody is happy for the team.”
The red-clad raucous crowd was quieted when Vegas scored early in the third period. Holtby – well-aware of the Golden Knights’ ability to cross up opposing goaltenders – had his puck-handling attempt intercepted by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The puck skittered to Nosek for an easy goal.
Vegas built some momentum, but Devante Smith-Pelly gave the Capitals an insurance goal with 6:07 left – his fourth of the playoffs – after Jay Beagle took the puck away from Shea Theodore on the forecheck and found his teammate skating in alone on Fleury. Vegas pulled Fleury for more than two minutes at the end of the game but couldn’t break through.
The Capitals have now pieced together consecutive wins against the hottest team in the playoffs and are game-by-game exorcising the demons of the past decade and more.