John Lucas III went undrafted in the NBA in 2005, but he’s managed to carve out more than a decade in professional basketball. The latest of his many stops finds him back in the NBA as a 33-year-old backup point guard with the Timberwolves. With Minnesota set for its home opener Tuesday, Lucas chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
Q: I counted 19 professional career stops on three different continents since 2005. How do you even begin to describe that journey?
A: I love basketball, and I’m a gym rat, so wherever there’s an opportunity to play I’m going to be there. It doesn’t matter where it is. Going through everything that I’ve gone through in my career makes me who I am. I appreciate everything I have because I’ve been away from my family for long stretches of time. I’ve been on 19-hour bus rides. I understand what it took to get here, so every time I step on that court I’m going 110 percent.
Q: Probably your most successful NBA season came in 2011-12 in Chicago when Tom Thibodeau was the coach there. What clicked between the two of you?
A: He knows my game. He had me when I was a rookie with the Rockets, and they sent me down to the D-League. He said to me, “Who do you think you are as a player?” And I said, “Allen Iverson.” He was my favorite player. I was a scoring guard. And he was like, “No, you’re not Allen Iverson. You’re Dana Barros.”
Q: You certainly provide a veteran presence on a team with plenty of youngsters — including fellow point guard Kris Dunn. What has that relationship been like and how comfortable are you in a mentoring role?
A: I’m very comfortable. They know when I step on the court I’m going right at them. I’m going to push them to make them better, and I want them to push me. As soon as I got here, everyone kind of came to me because they see how I work. You never know. The way I’ve made my career is always being ready.
Q: How much of your career has been shaped by being the son of a former NBA player and head coach?
A: My dad was one of the hardest coaches I ever was around, but he always told me to protect my name. What he meant is that everyone thought I was given everything because of my father. But he wasn’t the one putting the ball in the hole.
Q: There is plenty of optimism with this year’s Timberwolves. What does it take to break through from potential to results?
A: Being around these young guys, we have a chance to do some special things this year and in the years to come. Being around a coach like [Thibodeau], a basketball junkie, is only going to help them. I know that because I’ve been around him and played for him.
Q: Not many NBA players are listed at 5-11. Even those who really are that height probably cheat and say 6 feet. But you don’t cheat. Is that a source of pride for you, making it at that height?
A: It’s what God gave me. To me, I use it as a testimony and to give to the young kids who were told they were too small to play. My whole thing is to always prove them wrong. Height is not always what it’s hyped up to be.