I caught up to him after Saturday's contest against the Philadelphia 76er's. In this interview, I had an opportunity to ask what makes him tick and why he plays the way he does.
Darrell Horwitz: You were out of the NBA for a long time until coming to the Bulls last year. With Derrick Rose missing some games, you have been given an opportunity to show what you can do. How would you characterize what you're giving the Bulls right now?
John Lucas lll: I'm just coming in and playing the game of basketball the way I know how to play it. I come in with a lot of energy. I don't care how many points I score. I'm all about winning and doing whatever the team needs for me to do.
DH: Where do you get your confidence? You have no conscience (he chuckles), you go out there and jack them up (when you come in).
JL: You've got to play with confidence. If you don't play with confidence, you shouldn't be out there. I've been playing this game my whole, entire life. I've always been a scorer. I was always able to put the ball into the hole. Coach Thibs (Tom Thibodeau) always tells me to do what you do best.
DH: So he encourages you to go out there and shoot the ball?
JL: He tells me to play my game. Thibs knows me better than anybody else. I've been around him almost my whole life. He used to work me out when I was with the (Houston) Rockets, and he always gave me takes on the players he thought I resembled like Damon Stoudamire, Dana Barros and Allen Iverson. Players like that, scoring PG's. That's all I watched growing up. He always gave me DVD's and had me working on something different everyday.
DH: Would you say quickness is a big part of your game?
JL: Absolutely. I used to go a thousand miles an hour. Now I've got a change of pace to me. It took me a while to get it. Damon Stoudamire and Sam Cassell worked with me for two whole summers about changing my pace and getting a mid-range game. I can't thank those guys enough. And then my father worked with me every day. It's just going to make me a better player.
DH: Normally, when you think of a point guard, you think of pass first. Would you consider yourself a shoot-first point guard?
JL: I consider myself whatever the game brings to me.
DH: When you get on the court, what are you looking to do out there?
JL: Play with a lot of energy. Pick up full court, change the pace of the game, get everybody involved. Just do what I do; it's hard to explain because it varies every night. When somebody has the hot hand, I make sure they keep getting the ball. When you need to score or defend whoever, that's what I'm going to do.
DH: I'm watching the game the other night against Miami, and I'm thinking, "I think John thinks he's Derrick Rose." Is that your mindset, Derrick's not here so I'm going to be Derrick Rose?
JL: I'm going to play my game. I come off the pick and if they go under, I'm going to shoot. Like I said, I'm a scoring PG. Thibs always says, "Be the first option in the pick and roll. If you come off the pick, you're the first option there. If it's not there, move the ball."
DH: When LeBron (James) switched off on you the other night like he does against Derrick Rose, does that effect your ego at all?
JL: I'm a competitor. I wasn't nervous or anything. I was out there about winning. When LeBron switched off on me, I said I'm just going to go ahead no matter who they put in front of me.
DH: So there's no fear?
JL: No sir.
DH: But he's a guy who's 6''8"" and weighs about 100 pounds more than you, and a guy who's super-quick to go along with it.
JL: You just go out there and you play ball. You can't be scared playing this game. You can't be scared of anything. Like my dad said, if you're scared, go to church.
DH: With your dad being a former player and coach, is that where you think you got that from?
JL: Absolutely. You don't get starstruck. I've been around the NBA my whole, entire life. I'm pals with Michael Jordan, George Gervin, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson. I'm pals with the biggest of biggest stars. My big brothers are Allen Iverson and Damon Stoudamire. These guys helped me throughout my career. In high school and college. They called me on the phone and said do this and do that. Do this more: delete this off.
DH: Since you were out of the NBA for such a long time, did you ever lose your confidence, and did you think you would get back to the NBA?
JL: It made me more hungry. This is where I knew I belonged. I had never been cut before in my life until I became a professional. It was a journey, but I just want to make the most of it.
DH: It seems like the players on this team are so cohesive and close. How would you compare this team to other teams you played with?
JL: This is the best team I ever played with. It reminds me of my college team. We're a brotherhood. We've got each others' back. When one of our brothers go down, we step up. D-Rose went down, I felt it was time for me to step up. When C.J. (Watson) got hurt, I felt like I needed to step up. When Luol (Deng) went down with the wrist injury, Jimmy Butler stepped up. We've got each others back, and that's what it's all about. We're a unit.
DH: You've known Coach Thibs so long. Is he harder on you?
JL: No, he's hard on everybody. He just wants you to play your best. He doesn't mind my shot-taking or anything like that. All he strives on is defense.
DH: I know you can't look ahead, but do you have in your mind getting back against Miami and beating them this time?
JL: Right now, Thibs has us thinking one game at a time. You can't think ahead because that's when you get knocked on your butt. We go into every game with the same mind-set...how to stop them, how to defend them, what we need to do. and that's our mind-set. Take one game at a time.
DH: I knew you were going to say that, but assuming you and Miami do meet again in the playoffs, what do you think your team needs to do to get by Miami this time?
JL: We've got to play hard. You have to go out there and leave everything you have on the court no matter what. That's what it takes. Some nights, the ball's going to go your way, and you're going to have nights the ball's not going to go your way. It's all about staying together, staying as a unit, and staying as one.
DH: Last year in the fourth quarter, LeBron started taking Derrick. Is there anything in particular you can do?
JL: No, it was their year last year and they got us. We have to move on. Trust me; we'll be ready when we get to that point.
I conducted the interview in a professional manner like you would expect in a locker room without prejudice.
I would love to hear your thoughts about it.
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