By Sam Zuba-
United Center (CBS) He was only six years old at the time, but John Lucas III remembers it well.
Lucas has vivd memories of working on shooting drills with his father John — the former first-overall pick and point guard who spent 14 seasons in the NBA — before his dad’s games with the Milwaukee Bucks.
“He used to work me out before the other players would come in,” Lucas said. “I’d take a shower like I was one of the players, then I’d put my ball boy uniform on and go out there and rebound (for the players,) which I really didn’t like. I wanted to keep shooting and just be around the guys.”
Entering this season, Lucas, now 29, was a bit of an afterthought — if even that — on the Bulls’ roster. He was third on the depth chart at guard, and sights were set, as they should have been, on the return of the reigning MVP in Derrick Rose.
After all, Rose is the star, the franchise, the future.
But back ups cannot be forgotten. Look no further than the Bears to see just how important a serviceable backup to your star player can be — that’s why the Bears aren’t playing this weekend and the Texans are.
Ten games into this NBA season, Lucas is now Rose’s back up with C.J. Watson out indefinitely with a sprained left elbow suffered more than a week ago.
“I just want to come in and pick up where C.J. left off so we don’t miss a beat,” Lucas said. “We’re missing him — we hope he comes back strong, real healthy. I’m just going to hold the fort down.”
So far, Lucas has done just that, while Watson has been out.
Lucas had a career-high 16 points in Saturday’s loss. Then, on Monday, he scored six points in 15 minutes as he again provided rest for Rose, who played 33 minutes in a stretch where the Bulls will play seven games in nine days.
“I gotta make sure that, whenever the opportunity comes, no matter what, it’s like second nature,” Lucas said.
Undrafted out of Oklahoma State, Lucas has been in and out of the NBA, playing in Spain, China and Italy, since 2005.
Though, in 2012, he appears to have found a home in Chicago.
Lucas isn’t going to sell any tickets. Most likley, his name will be met with a confused “Who?” when discussed. But his value to this team cannot be ignored.
The Bulls without Rose are, well, nothing special and certainly no match for the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. In a shortened season that will test each player’s physical endurance, reserves have never been more important.
“He has executed his role perfectly,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We all have a lot of confidence in him.
“His attitude and approach are great. He stays ready to play. He’s a high-energy guy. He’s smart. He can run the team. He can shoot. He can not play for a long period of time, and then when he’s called upon, he’s ready to go.
Lucas believes that his NBA upbringing has taught him to keep fighting during his up-and-down career.
“That’s one thing I picked up from being around the NBA — guys just pushing themselves, talking to themselves,” Lucas said. “‘All right, let’s get it. I know you’re tired, just keep going, keep going. Just keep fighting, get to the next level.'”
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