Derrick Rose is expected to return from a groin injury Sunday when the Bulls face the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, which means it's back to the bench for John Lucas III. The third-string point guard proved during Rose's absences that he belongs in the NBA, at least.
"I'm not here by accident," Lucas III said. "I proved I can play with the best. That was my whole goal, to show people I could play. People who said I was here because of my father, I didn't want to hear any of that. Every night I step on that court I want to prove everybody wrong."
Rose was a game-time decision but told reporters before the game that would not play against the Celtics on Thursday night but would play Sunday instead.
Coach Tom Thibodeau was less certain.
"We'll see," Thibodeau said. "We're optimistic. We're hopeful. If that's the case, that's the case. We just want to make sure."
There's no reason to rush this, not with what's at stake. If Rose does return Sunday, he'll have 10 games to work himself into playoff shape before the postseason begins.
"You're cautious because of where you are in the season, too," Thibodeau said. "He has to be healthy. We're not going to rush him back just to get him back. He's got to be healthy."
Lucas III, the son of ex-NBA player and coach John Lucas, has been the biggest surprise of the Bulls season, although players and coaches say they have long known what he can do. He scored 25 points against the Wizards in his first NBA start. He scored 20 against Orlando and had 24, including a late-game, fade-away jumper over LeBron James, in a win over Miami last month.
Lucas III has been a bottom-of-the-roster player during his NBA career. He has also played in China, Spain and Italy.
"I don't even think about stuff like that," Lucas III said when asked if he has earned a measure of security. "It's a business. This league is crazy. I go out there and play like it's my last game every game. I don't care if we're up by 30 or down by 40, I'm going to go hard no matter what."