John Lucas’ Hard Work Finally Paying Off
John Lucas III is the epitome of a journeyman. He began his college career at Baylor University were he played for two seasons and then transferred to Oklahoma State University. After two years at OSU he went undrafted and signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005, only to be waived three weeks later. He spent his first two NBA seasons on the Houston Rockets’ bench and in 2007 headed overseas to play basketball.
Lucas played in China, Italy and then returned to the States where he spent time in the D-League before being picked up by the Chicago Bulls late last season. Now, because of a shoulder injury to C.J. Watson, Lucas is getting his chance to prove he can play at the highest level and that his hard work over the years is starting to pay off.
“This is a game I love,” Lucas told HOOPSWORLD. “When you love something you stay focused throughout, when there are good times and bad times because you never know. With me, I’m always in practice, I’m always watching film, always doing my daily routine like I’m in game shape. When I go out there, when I practice I don’t practice half-ass, I go out there and practice 100% like I’m a starter or I’m a backup. Just in case.”
Always the team player, Lucas has trouble thinking about anything other than the team being at full strength.
“I hope C.J. gets healthy. He’s like a brother to me; he’s like a brother to our team. Our team is really family-oriented and that’s what we preach and that’s what we live by.”
When Lucas does get in the game though, he plans on staying true to himself.
“Just go out and play my game. Don’t change who I am, just go out and play the way I’ve played my entire life. Running the ball up the court and do exactly as Thibs (head coach Tom Thibodeau) wants me to do and what the team calls for me to do. Just go out there and give them positive minutes, low turnovers, hit open shots, get everybody involved, and run the offense like we do in practice.”
Practicing everyday with last year’s league MVP, Derrick Rose, is also paying off. Being undersized – Lucas is only 5’11’’ -and having gone undrafted Lucas has always played with chip on his shoulder, but playing with Rose has helped him gain perspective on his basketball career.
“I was always an energetic person with a lot of energy, I always had a chip on my shoulder when I played so I never enjoyed the game, I felt like I always had to prove a point. And just watching how poised Rose is, how he doesn’t get rattled how he lets the game come to him, he doesn’t go to the game, he let’s the game come to him. He’s not forcing anything and that’s some stuff I’ve picked up on.”
Lucas then admitted, “That’s stuff I should have learned when I was 22, 23.”
One would think this is a dangerous time for the Bulls having to rely on journeyman who is yet to make his mark in the NBA, but Rose believes otherwise. Rose believes Lucas has put in the work and is ready for his shot in the rotation.
“He’s somebody that puts in the work, definitely a professional and I think it’s time for him,” Rose said. “I think he’s going to step up to the plate and play well. He has a lot of confidence knowing that his teammates are behind him.”
With Rose on his side and Watson likely out for a few more games, this is Lucas’ best opportunity to play himself into the rotation permanently. Also, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that will make high-priced backups a luxury most teams can’t afford, a good showing by Lucas and he could find himself as a desirable free agent this offseason.
“When opportunities come like this, you do what you can and give it all you got,” Lucas concluded.
There is little doubt this is a big moment for Lucas, and what he does over the next several games could affect the rest of his NBA career.