Thibodeau, Bulls ready for final 'Bench Mob' reunion with Lucas

983291.png

Thibodeau, Bulls ready for final 'Bench Mob' reunion with Lucas

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.

RELATED: Could Bulls' Butler make an All-Star weekend appearance?

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.

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Isaiah Canaan

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Isaiah Canaan

Chicago Bulls training camp is right around the corner, with the first preseason game coming Oct. 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Between then and now, CSNChicago.com will take a look at each player on the Bulls’ roster to preview and possibly project their importance to the team as the Bulls hope to qualify for the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Player: Isaiah Canaan

Position: Point Guard/Shooting guard

Experience: 4th season

2015-16 stats: 11.0 points, 1.8 rebounds

2016-17 Outlook: It’ll be a game of musical chairs in the Bulls’ backcourt this season with the backup positions and Canaan will be in the mix for playing time at both positions, despite his small 6-foot-0 frame.

He’s more scorer than facilitator and looks for his offense, being aggressive in the pick and roll and in the open floor. It could be a change of pace from Rajon Rondo’s style, as Rondo can push the pace but will definitely be in control. If Canaan beats out Jerian Grant, Spencer Dinwiddie and Denzel Valentine for minutes, he’s going to play at a breakneck speed, looking to force the action and reacquainting himself with a familiar statistic: Field Goals Attempted.

Per 36 minutes last year, he took 13.2 shots and nearly nine of them came from the 3-point line, which accounts for his career shooting percentage being below 37, as he gets up a huge bulk from the long line.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Having spent the majority of his career with the then-tanking Philadelphia 76ers, Canaan’s value is hard to project and one wonders if he’s gotten accustomed to losing environments.

In Philly, though, he was able to get plenty of experience, playing 77 games last season in what was probably as eye-opening for him as anything he’s ever endured in the NBA.

With the depth, though, seeing the above-mentioned players likely being ahead of him in the rotation means the Bulls won’t be as dependent on him for wins — but during those dog days of the season, when the injuries can pile up and the excitement is low, one wonders if Fred Hoiberg can toss Canaan out there and his energy can help the Bulls to a win or two in February — which could come handy in April when all wins matter if you’re trying to compete for a playoff spot.

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Doug McDermott

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Doug McDermott

Chicago Bulls training camp is right around the corner, with the first preseason game coming Oct. 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Between then and now, CSNChicago.com will take a look at each player on the Bulls’ roster to preview and possibly project their importance to the team as the Bulls hope to qualify for the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Player: Doug McDermott

Position: Small Forward

Experience: 3rd season

2015-16 Stats: 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds

2016-17 Outlook: It’s been a steady progression for Doug McDermott from his rookie year to last season, as he’s symbolic of what Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wants his system to be: A floor-spreading, free-wheeling wide open system, one that displays the new reality of the NBA.

McDermott, at times last season, showed his proficiency despite his limitations. Few were better from the 3-point line, as he shot 42.5 percent, ranking fifth in the NBA. In semi-transition, he was a sure bet to spot up from the left wing and position himself for a pass and quick release.

With Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo all able to make plays, McDermott will be counted on more than he has before to make shots with space at a premium.

McDermott and Nikola Mirotic will have to provide the shooting to keep defenses honest, which could lead to McDermott being the first sub off the bench for a guy like Wade or Butler, leaving the latter to anchor the second unit in the second quarter.

His game opened up last season after the All-Star break, especially with his ability to create his own shot. It’s not a staple of his game and who knows how much he’ll have to use it with the ballhandlers on the floor, but he did have a reliable baseline fadeaway and one-legged runner he would go to every once in awhile.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

The Bulls’ offense ran better with him on the floor, averaging 116 points per 100 possessions. February produced his best month as a pro, averaging nearly 15 a game on 52 percent shooting—splits that could be more common as his career progresses. But what he gives, he often gives away on the defensive end and it’ll be a battle to keep him on the floor with some of the concerns the team will have as a whole.

Keeping players in front of him with his lateral movement is an issue, and even being in the right place defensively off the ball isn’t a given. But a lot of that is scheme and the Bulls have to be better collectively.

Expecting him to take another step this season as he knows what to expect and gains more confidence in his own game isn’t unreasonable—and finding consistency will be important to his future in the league, as he’ll be eligible for an extension following his third season.

In other words, there’s plenty of tangible and intangible incentive to improve.