With Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson sideline with injuries, Tom Thibodeau was asked who would start at point guard before Wednesday night's game.
"Lucas," he growled, referring to third-string point guard John Lucas III. When he was asked who would be backing up Lucas III, Thibodeau replied: "Lucas."
It was an honest answer. It also served as a rare moment of levity before the strangest night of what has already become a frequently bizarre season. Lucas III, making his first NBA start, didn't play all 48 minutes but was on the floor for 45 minutes and scored a game-high 25 points to go along with eight assists and eight rebounds in the Bulls 78-64 win over the Wizards at the United Center.
"He didn't leave any bullets in the gun, that's for sure," Thibodeau said afterward, shaking his head. "I give him a lot of credit."
Lucas III launched 28 shots. To put that in perspective, consider that Rose, who was out with a sprained left toe, has averaged 16 shots per game this season and Michael Jordan averaged 22.9 during his career. For a third-string point guard, Lucas III isn't bashful. Give him that. Lucas surpassed Jordan's career average midway through the fourth quarter.
"Coach Thibs was getting mad at me when I wasn't taking shots when I was open because I did feel like I was shooting too much," Lucas III said. "He said if you don't take those shots it won't open up for everybody else. Once I realized what he was talking about, that's when Kyle [Korver] started coming off screens and taking shots and taking shots. It opened up something else."
The evening started with the worst-case scenario: Rose in a walking boot. The reigning MVP sprained his toe in Tuesday night's win against Minnesota while still managing to score 31 points and dish 11 assists. Rose was determined to play against the Wizards but while x-rays were negative the pain was too intense.
Thibodeau said Rose is "day to day" with a sprained toe and not turf toe as Rose himself described the injury. In fact, Thibodeau said the injury is unlike the turf toe that forward Carlos Boozer suffered late last season. Thibodeau is hopeful Rose will return for Friday night's game in Boston. Don't count on it. He has been calling C.J. Watson "day to day" for almost two weeks.
"He's been huge playing through injuries," guard Ronnie Brewer said of Rose, who only missed one game last season. "He's a tough guy. If he's out you know it's bothering him a little bit."
Korver scored 14 points while Luol Deng added 12 points and 15 rebounds as the Bulls completed the back-to-back-to-back portion of their schedule with three straight wins. Omer Asik had eight points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots.
The Bulls out-rebounded the Wizards 62-46, including six straight offensive rebounds in the final minutes to seal the game.
"I really felt like our bigs were huge tonight," Deng said. "The way we rebounded the ball gave us a lot of second chances."
Lucas started cramping up in the third quarter. Who could blame him? The journeyman hasn't played more than 22 minutes since he was with the Rockets and played 31 in the 2007 season finale against Utah.
"It's very unusual for a backup point guard to get 28 shot attempts," Washington coach Flip Saunders said. "However, he is an offensively minded guard and tonight he made some tough shots."