When the Bulls broke training camp just before Christmas, they didn't have an extra big man to replace Kurt Thomas, but they did keep a third-string point guard in John Lucas III.
A couple of popular questions from Bulls fans during this time were, "What is he doing here?" and "When will they get rid of him?"
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There were valid reasons Lucas stuck around. Most important was his role as friend and mentor to Derrick Rose. Lucas and Rose are shooting partners and have adjacent lockers at the United Center.
Coach Tom Thibodeau also may have been showing some loyalty. He worked as an assistant coach for Lucas' father of the same name twice in the 1990s, with San Antonio and Philadelphia.
Back in December, though, there wasn't much evidence the 5-foot-11 Lucas was a valid NBA player.
Well, after a number of impressive performances since then, you can officially scratch that thought.
Lucas again delivered timely scoring off the bench, tallying 11 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulls turned the tables late to beat Toronto 94-82 on Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre.
The Bulls outscored the Raptors 32-13 in the final quarter. Kyle Korver had another hot hand, scoring all 10 of his points in the fourth.
"We're so deep that there's always guys somehow, somewhere, who are going to get it going," Luol Deng told reporters after the game.
There have been a few times lately when Lucas made the difference between winning and losing. He scored 24 points against Miami last week and knocked down 3 straight 3-pointers in less than a minute to send the Bulls ahead of Orlando on Monday.
Then in Toronto, with the Bulls trailing 69-62 at the end of three quarters, Lucas scored the team's first 7 points in the fourth. That helped start a 20-0 run that turned an 8-point deficit into a 12-point lead with 4:16 remaining.
"The first half I felt like I was flat and I wanted to make it up," Lucas said. "I said, 'I'm just going to give it everything I have and just go out there and play my hardest and leave everything on the court.'"
A Korver 3-pointer tied the score, then the Bulls took the lead for good with 6:58 left on a Taj Gibson layup.
"This team, we have a lot of pieces that fit really well together," Korver said. "We all have different strengths and we try to play to our strengths. I think the fourth quarter tonight was about as well as you can do at playing to strengths."
The visitors made the fourth-quarter comeback using a lineup of Lucas, Korver, Gibson, Deng and Omer Asik. Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah didn't play in the final quarter. Deng led the team with 17 points, while C.J. Watson scored 15.
The Bulls (39-10) improved to 11-4 on the season without Rose, who missed his fifth straight game with a groin strain. Rose's return date is unclear, but it probably won't be Saturday when the Raptors visit the United Center for a rematch.
"He's doing more and more," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's doing some shooting. He's moving right along."