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

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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.

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

AUBURN HILLS, MICH—Rajon Rondo almost made it to the quarter mark of the season without incident, but his frustrations got the better of him in Dallas last weekend in a situation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen.

He returned from his one-game suspension in a light mood, but didn’t take things lightly when addressing questions from the media after the Bulls’ 102-91 loss to Detroit.

Rondo admitted that he feels so strongly about things that he doesn’t let them go as easily as he should, which could have been the case with Boylen. Rondo threw a towel after an exchange with Boylen during the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Mavericks.

“That’s a good way to put it. Me as a player, a point guard, I have to handle a situation better,” Rondo said. “But when I feel a certain way, I’m gonna speak on it. My whole thing is always for the betterment of the team.

“If it comes off wrong or a certain way I’ll try to work on that. But for the most part I’m not a selfish individual, I try to do what’s best for the team, try to watch film with my teammates. That’s just part of the game, who I am.”

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When asked if he actually threw a towel at Boylen, Rondo quipped, “You gotta look at the film,” and tried to downplay the situation as best he could, noting the timing of the event in question.

He apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates and believes there won’t be lasting effects, although the Bulls are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

“Hopefully it’ll be the last three-game losing streak,” Rondo said. “It’s about how you handle adversity. We usually handle it well as far as bouncing back.”

Calling the incident “part of the game,” Rondo didn’t want to address specifics but given his history of instances such as these in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento, this one makes it a little harder to shake the reputation of being difficult to deal with.

“I have a good relationship with my team and I take pride in being a great teammate,” Rondo said. “I think we’re still on the same page. When you lose, things get blown out of proportion. When you win, it covers everything up. So we have to get back to winning basketball.”

His teammates have been supportive both behind the scenes and publicly, and were happy to have him back despite not being able to quell the losing streak.

“It was good. That's our starting point guard. We need veteran guys on this team,” Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said. “We need our bodies. He's our leader today so when we got down early he was the one who kept talking to us defensively. He's so smart out there on the floor, takes certain things away, get out in open transition. The reason we got back in the game, he did a good job of leading us in those moments.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: Bulls Slide Continues After Loss In Detroit

Bulls Talk Podcast: Bulls Slide Continues After Loss In Detroit

In the latest BullsTalk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill break down the Bulls latest losing streak. What is the biggest problem with the Bulls facing the Bulls going forward? Why was the rotation completely different in Monday and Tuesday’s games?

Then listen to Fred Hoiberg’s media session after the 101-92 loss in Detroit.

With the Spurs coming up on Thursday, the guys discuss how San Antonio continues to be an elite team despite the retirement of Tim Duncan. Will Perdue shares his memories of being traded for Dennis Rodman, of playing 4 seasons for Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, and the relationship he has with the legendary coach. Plus Kendall shares a story of Pat Riley’s motivational locker room tactics.

Catch the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast right here!