- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- John Lucas III has made a habit of being ready to go when the phone rings.
Last season it was a call from Chicago Bulls' management telling the well-traveled point guard to get on the first plane from Houston to Denver to play in that night's game in place of an injured Derrick Rose. This past week, it was a call from a union representative telling him to get to New York to serve as the Bulls' de facto team representative during the ongoing labor negotiations between the owners and players.
"I was like, yeah, I would love to know what's going on, what's the holdup, what's the situation and all that," Lucas said during a phone conversation from his home in Houston, Texas. "And to get better information because I was like everybody else, getting information from what I was looking at on the TV, [from] the media. Now I've got a better understanding of what's going on and I'm glad I went. I also relayed everything I got from the meeting to the rest of my teammates. [I'm] still trying to reach out to some that I can't get a hold of right now, but I took the responsibility on as [the team representative] to make sure everybody knows exactly what's going on. I reached out and called everybody to at least inform them what exactly is going on in the meetings."
Lucas was happy to take the place of team reps Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah during Wednesday's session, both of whom were not in attendance. Having grown up around the league during his father, John Lucas II's, playing and coaching career, the younger Lucas realizes that there is a chance that he may not be on the Bulls roster once the lockout ends and the regular season begins anew, but that didn't make him uncomfortable during Wednesday's session.
"It wasn't weird at all," he said. "Because at the end of the day it doesn't matter what team we would be on because whatever we decide will affect all teams. So it doesn't matter if I was on the Bulls or I was on the Lakers, it still would be NBA as a whole as what's going on with the collective bargaining agreement. So it didn't feel weird."
Having said that, Lucas was still appreciative of the opportunity to represent himself and his team at the meetings. It's one of a handful he's attended the past few months.
"I'm glad I went because I got a better understanding of exactly what is going on," he said. "I've been around the NBA my whole entire life [with] my father, just being a ball boy, playing, always grew up around NBA players. I was very into the last lockout because my father was coaching at the time ... now I'm older, more mature, I get to understand the business side of everything. Because most of the time it was all about ball with me, but now it still is about basketball but I see the business side of what exactly is going on because at the end of the day it really is a job."
To that point, Lucas said the environment in the negotiating room was one that any businessperson could appreciate.
"It's just like somebody going to a board meeting," he said. "When you're making cooperate decisions, just like any other business or company, when you're having a meeting trying to decide on something ... it's just like that. We're listening to what's on the table and we give our feedback on what it is that we like, we don't like. What we agree to, what we don't agree to, just like anybody else that would have a board meeting, trying to figure out their next move is going to be."
Like most fans though, Lucas is extremely frustrated that the two sides can't come to an agreement.
"Absolutely," he said. "When you take something like basketball away from somebody who plays and who really enjoys it, not just playing as a player, but also as a fan. And you're not getting into watching the game that you love to watch, you get frustrated. I know college [games are] about to [start] so you get a little bit of the itch, but it's nothing like the NBA, nothing like watching the NBA games. Seeing the competitions and seeing the players run up and down the court. All the excitement and the electricity that goes on in the games. We're missing that."
That's the feeling Lucas got when he talked to most of his teammates over the past few days as well.
"Everybody wants a fair deal," he said. "Everybody's ready to get back to playing. We're ready to get back to the city, get back to the United Center, which is one of the most exciting arenas in all of the NBA. That part we're missing, because right now we would have been playing games. We would be competing. You only can work out for so much until you get that itch to play. Everybody said the same thing. They just want to fair, for both ends. Fair for the players and fair for the owners. And hopefully our union, who I think is doing a terrific job, and the players that are standing tall and standing beside our union. I think everything's going to come around just the way it will to work out for not just us, but also the owners too, so everybody will be happy."
Lucas is staying busy by working out several times a day in Houston. He enjoyed some publicity this summer when he dropped 60 points in a summer league game in New York City in which Kevin Durant, among others, participated.
"With me, I'll play whoever, whenever. I had a blast this summer. I stayed in New York most of the summer playing in leagues. I played in four different leagues up in New York. It kind of brought me back to my childhood of living in Philadelphia where I was playing outside, which I haven't done since I was in eighth grade. And playing against some top players, not just NBA players, but other players that played high Division I college [ball] but just didn't make the league."
As somebody who has struggled throughout his career to crack an NBA rotation, Lucas took pride in his performance this summer.
"There's always competition everywhere you go and everybody always talks about how the city of New York is the Mecca of basketball," he said. "And me being from Houston, I feel like I was putting on for my city and also not just representing for Houston, but also for players that's in the league who they see you as the 13th, 14th, 15th man and they don't realize that you have game too, because you're not actually playing in the games when they come it just hasn't been your chance. So it gives you the opportunity to show [people] you've got to work to get where I'm at, nothing was just given to me. I think I gained [a lot] of respect by playing in all the leagues in New York ... I just had a blast playing basketball. I got a chance to work on stuff I needed to work on, not just work on it individually but got to really do it in a game-like situation. Basically sharpening my skills up, getting ready for the upcoming season and going from there."
In the short term, aside from his possible participation in future labor meetings, Lucas is getting ready to play in a charity game of his own in Houston. One which has been set up by his father and is expected to feature Durant playing on the floor.
"I know D. Rose is coming down to support the game," Lucas said. "I don't think he's going to play but he's coming down to support the game, which would be good, maybe we can get some work in, shooting, just staying in the gym. It's just something to give back to the city of Houston. Everybody's itching for basketball down here. This is a city that really loves the game. And we have a lot of NBA players that live here in the summertime so why not get together and put on a show for the fans? Because at the end of the day, I know everybody's missing the NBA. I know I am."
Journeyman John Lucas III is eager for the lockout to end.