TORONTOThe last of the Bulls reunions with the departed members of the Bench Mob will occur Wednesday evening at the Air Canada Centre.
John Lucas IIIs squad hosts his former team and while the reserve point guard doesnt get a lot of playing time for the Raptors, his ex-teammates still acknowledge the impact he made during his stint in Chicago.
John was fun. Hes a great scorer. He could get off anytime. He won us some games, where he came in and hit some big shots for us, Luol Deng said before the Bulls morning shootaround. Ive watched him a little bit. I know hes not playing much, but hes still staying professional. Hes staying consistent with what he does.
Jimmy Butler chimed in: Just his energy, man, and how great of a teammate he was, and how he wanted for himself to do well and also for his teammates.
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Lucas may have been third on the depth chart behind Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson, but his infectious personality and knack for stealing the showwhether it was out-dueling LeBron James for a Bulls home win over the Heat or playing virtually the entire contest for the short-handed team during an improbable victory over Washington at the United Centermade him a beloved figure in the Bulls locker room after a less than memorable debut with the team.
Two seasons ago, after being cut after the preseason, Lucas was summoned to Denver to play against the Nuggets in a November road game, due to Rose being sidelined with a neck injury. Lucas missed two clutch free throws, eventually leading to a one-point loss when Carmelo Anthony nailed a buzzer-beater.
For most fringe NBA players, that game could have been a death knell. But most fringe NBA players didnt have a supporter like Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who previously coached Lucas in Houston and was an assistant coach for the players father while in Philadelphia, when the younger Lucas was just a kid.
When Lucas signed a two-year contract with Toronto in July, Thibodeau was both privately disappointed that the Bulls didnt retain him and proud of the journeyman--as was Rose, who was the first to contact his best friend on the team after hearing about the deal--finally getting some security in the league. However, things havent gone as planned for the Raptors, as Lucas has again been relegated to the third-string roleToronto traded for Kyle Lowry in the offseason and incumbent starter Jose Calderon, who was expected to be trade bait, held on to his joband in 10.9 minutes per game, Lucas is averaging 4.2 points and 1.7 assists a night.
He hasnt played a lot because when you have Calderon and Lowry in front of you, youre talking about two starting point guards, so theres not a lot of minutes, but every time hes been called upon, hes done a good job for them, Thibodeau explained. Thats who he is. John stays ready and then, you have to be ready whenever he does come in the game, if he does come in. If you give him space, hes going to make you pay.
Professionalism, intelligence, ability to shoot, readiness to play, adds a lot to your team. Type of guy who doesnt play for five games, 10 games, then if hes called upon, hes ready and those guys are invaluable. He did a great job for us and hes doing a great job for Toronto, he continued when asked about the qualities that endeared Lucas to him.
Its not just in the games, but those guys bring a lot to practice and they help lead your team. They help push your team and so, he did that for us. Every day he came in ready, alert, early, stayed late. The one thing about John, you never had to tell John, Hey John, youve got to go hard today. Thats in him. Thats who he is. Great energy, great teammate, did his job extremely well for us.
With a little help from perhaps the one NBA coach who truly believed in him.