- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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TORONTO -- John Lucas III never wanted to leave Chicago.
But after bouncing around professional basketball leagues all over the world since college, he couldn't pass up the security of a two-year deal with an option year being offered by the Toronto Raptors last summer.
Lucas may be an ex-Bull, but he keeps up with them whenever he can.
"I watch most all their games," Lucas said before Wednesday night's game. "Just because I like to see (Tom Thibodeau) get mad at them ... those are my guys, those are like my brothers. I talk to them at least once a week, especially (Carlos Boozer)."
Lucas hasn't gotten a chance to play much in Toronto -- he's averaging 4.2 points in 10.9 minutes a game -- and didn't get into Wednesday's game, won by the Bulls' 107-105 in overtime.
Thibodeau appreciates what Lucas III did while he was with the Bulls.
"Professionalism, intelligence, ability to shoot, readiness to play, adds a lot to your team," Thibodeau said. "He's the type of guy who doesn't play for five games, 10 games, then if he's called upon he's ready. Those guys are invaluable. He did a great job for us, and he's doing a great job for Toronto."
Thibodeau said Lucas III made a big contribution to the Bulls every day in practice.
"Those guys bring a lot to practice," Thibodeau said. "They help lead your team, they help push your team. He did that for us, every day he came in ready, alert, early, stayed late. The one thing about John, you never had to tell John, 'Hey, John, you've got to go hard today.' That's in him, that's who he is, great energy, great teammate, did his job extremely well for us."
Lucas, who has known Thibodeau almost all his life since his dad, John Lucas II coached with Thibodeau, heaped praise on one of his mentors.
"Thibs believed in me," Lucas said. "He knew what I could do, and I'll forever be grateful for that. He was the one coach that took the chance on me and let me play exactly how I play. It made me show the rest of the NBA I belong here -- this is not a fluke, this is what I do. It was just a matter of me coming in and making it happen when my opportunity was there. I always felt like when I had the opportunity I was going to kick the door down."
Like many of his former teammates, Lucas knew that while Thibodeau's practices weren't always the most fun, the Bulls would always be the most prepared.
"We wouldn't have been the No. 1 team (in the regular season) the past two years without practices like that so I embraced it," Lucas said. "It doesn't matter to me, I like playing the game. I like the grind, I like going through the long hours we did because I knew it was going to better for us as a team."
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