- Melissa Isaacson, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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DEERFIELD -- John Lucas III is sure to be a busy man for the Chicago Bulls, for at least the short term, as Derrick Rose rests a groin strain and C.J. Watson remains day-to-day with a left ankle sprain. But after leading the Bulls to a victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday, Lucas said only one thing messed up the afterglow.
In addition to hearing from his friends back home after his 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting, Lucas said he got an earful from his father, John, a former player, head coach and assistant in the NBA.
“My dad was the funniest because he was like, ‘Did you say that LeBron [James] couldn't hold you when you hit that shot?' He was like, ‘You need to jump back inside your body and just relax. Calm down.' He always keeps me in line and keeps me focused for the next opponent," Lucas said.
Lucas said his background in the game has often helped him over the course of his basketball career.
“Before that [Miami] game," Lucas recounted, "my father called me and told me ‘This is how they played you last time and they were in training camp with you, so they think they have a feel for you. Switch it up, go to this, go to that.'
“It's always good to have a father who was a NBA coach and also an NBA player and can give you pointers, because even when I don't play, we constantly watch our games just in case we have to play that team again ... I'm a student still.”
A student perhaps, but not one vulnerable to being intimidated by James or anyone else.
“I remember hanging with Michael Jordan because he and my dad were good friends [when I was] five years old; playing one on one with George Gervin; being next to Isiah [Thomas], Larry Bird," Lucas said. "Larry Bird gave me his jersey after they beat my dad in the Eastern Conference championship, which I have. I've always been around it so I'm never starstruck or nervous because I've been around it my whole life. I look at it as another game, as another opportunity for our team to get better and myself to get better.”
Lucas joked that he hasn't framed his Bird jersey just yet.
“I want to get it signed,” he said. "[My dad] didn't mind at all [that I brought it home]. Bird was always one of my favorite players to watch just because he was relentless. It didn't matter. Him and Isiah were always coming at you, especially Isiah being his size, and I knew I was going to be that tall. I always watched players that I kind of knew I was going to be like -- Isiah, Damon Stoudamire, Allen Iverson, Muggsy Bogues. I was hoping I wasn't going to be that small, but just [Bogues'] relentlessness. When people said ‘You're too small to play, you won't play past high school, you're not going to play past college,' you're always out there proving people wrong.”
Lucas' shooting, combined with his relentlessness against the Heat, were credited most for the Bulls' victory over Miami, which came without Rose.
“As a team we played well,” Lucas said. “We were focused. I kept telling myself I need to step up for my team. We didn't know if Derrick was going to play or not, and I was just preparing myself if he wasn't going to play. I just wanted to go out there and play my game, bring a lot of energy on the court, make the right decisions and do exactly what coach Thibs told me to do.”
It did not come as a particular surprise to Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who said sees many special attributes in Lucas.
“His professionalism, attitude and approach; the way he shoots the ball; his energy,” Thibodeau said. “And even when he's not playing in games, he's helping us in practice. What you're seeing now is the way he practices every day. He brings a lot to our team in terms of team spirit and competitiveness.”
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