It's not hard to figure out why the Bulls are the best team in the NBA. They lead the league in rebounds, assists to turnover numbers, and defense. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has each player on his roster gowing for broke everytime they hit the court, and expects nothing less than 110% from each player when their name is called during a game or in practice. Injuries have made position battles more competitive than games against opponents it seems. Why was there no trade made at the deadline even though CJ Watson, Derrick Rose, Luo Deng, and Rip Hamilton have all missed games with various injuries? Because guys like Jimmy Butler, Kyle Korver, and and the signed & released twice Mike James have stepedp up when they are needed. Guys like John Lucas III....
Born in DC to former NBA player and coach John Lucas, Lucas III has played all over the world in his seven years in pro basketball. His time with the Bulls has been a strange trip at times, as he spent the 2010 preseason with the club, Only to get waived right before the start of the season. The Bulls re-signed Lucas a month later, but unfortunately his debut turned into a misery, as he missed two big free throws in the final seconds in Denver. The free throws would have put the game out of reach, instead he missed and former Nuggett Carmelo anthony game down court and hit a game winning shot at the buzzer. Ouch. Lucas was again cut January, but re-signed with the Bulls in March. He started his 1st game ever in january 2012 with a win over Washington, setting a career-high 25 points, and in minutes (45), assists (8), and rebounds (8) .
Yet none of this seemed to matter until the Bulls played the Miami heat without their star point guard.
Lucas was the star of game, scoring 22 points which included a 4th quarter duel with former teammate LeBron James. He carried the team on his back as starting point guard Watson (slowed by injuries) sat much of the 4th quarter. While Deng and Boozer lacked offense during the game, their energy and leadership helped push the non-starters, labeled "The Bench Mob", into contributing tremendously, one player to the next. It didnt hurt that the crowd was super-hot in Chicago, and was ready to go from the tip. Lucas, who hasnt gotten a bunch of playing time this year because of Watson being the back-up, seemed to feed off the crowd 's energy and hit big shot after big shot in the 2nd and 4th quarter. The Heat had no answer for Lucas, which is ironic since they had Lucas on the Heat roster in 2009.
After the game I asked Lucas despite the night's big performance, what he thought he could have done better: "That last turnover," he said. "just being too loose with the ball, but I told myself I was gonna make up for it!"
Lucas spent the 2009 preseason with the Heat, playing in four games, and averaged 7.0 points, 2.3 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game. Then on October 23, 2009, he got the word: he had been waived right before the team bus was leaving the hotel to go to that night's game..
âI had a great training camp for them,â Lucas said. âSpo (Heat coach Erik Spoelstra) and them came to me and said they needed a little more of a veteran, so they brought Carlos Arroyo in. I just took it on the chin. Itâs a business. Itâs part of the game.â
Playing all over the word and getting sparatic playing time would kill some guys' spirt, but not Lucas.
âI love the game of basketball. I love it with all my heart,â he said. âI would never stop. This is the highest level, so Iâm always going to shoot for the highest level.â
With Watson and Deng banged up, and Hamilton being MIA mosted of the season, another big scorer is a necessaity, and if Lucas can becom e that spark off the bench that this team needs the Bulls can go a long way.
ââEverybodyâs here for a reason. Like Thibs said, âItâs not an accident youâre on this team. Youâre a professional.â And if you want to play professionally, youâve got to step up!"