The move was perhaps the quietest one made by the Raptors this offseason; however the signing of John Lucas III could end up being one of the most impactful.
John Lucas III, son of former NBA veteran and coach John Lucas, stands 5 foot 10 inches tall and is easily the shortest player on the Toronto Raptors. Perhaps even the shortest the team has seen since Mugsy Bogues. But don't let his somewhat diminutive stature fool you, the man can flat out play.
Lucas hasn't had much handed to him to in his basketball career and subsequently, has had to work for just about every opportunity he has received.
After a somewhat tumultuous college experience at Baylor and then Oklahoma State, Lucas was overlooked by all 32 teams in the 2005 draft. Lucas then went to work, attempting to claw his way onto an NBA roster.
He had some success initially, joining the Houston Rockets midway through the 2005-2006 season after spending training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves and part of the season with the Tulsa 66ers of the D-League.
But, only 13 games into his stint with the Rockets he was cut from the team. Lucas spent the remainder of the season playing in Italy before returning to the Rockets the following season where he played in 47 games.
Lucas spent the next three seasons playing in various leagues across the world, hoping to get another chance at the NBA. For Lucas, that chance came during the 2010-2011 season in which he played just two games for the Bulls and was once again waved, but not before leaving enough of an impression on the organization that they opted to bring him back for the lockout shortened season.
It was in this season that he truly left his mark, stepping in for Derrick Rose on a number of occasions as Rose struggled with a series of nagging injuries. The high point of that season--and perhaps his career to date--was his 28 point, 8 rebound and 8 assist performance in his first career start against the Wizards.
With Lucas, the Raptors are getting a player that knows a thing or two about hard work, and will bring that attitude every time he steps on the floor. That mindset, in addition to his scoring ability is something that head coach Dwane Casey really likes about his third-string point guard.
"he is a scorer. But again, I like his spirit, the way he approaches the game. He is a leader. You can coach him, you can coach him hard and he bounces right back" Casey said about Lucas following his first preseason game in a Raptor uniform.
"You've got to be able to take coaching and don't take it as criticism. And that's something that John does" Casey continued "he doesn't drop his shoulders; you know, and go into a pout. He responds in a positive way and that is the mark of a winner".
In Lucas, Casey sees someone that can not only come into a game and put the ball in the basket, but can also set the tone every day in practice with his hard work and positive mindset. This aspect of Lucas' game is crucial for this club, particularly the younger, more influential players that will feed off of this type of work ethic.
Despite this being just his first season with the team, Lucas is already embracing his role as a veteran leader.
"Everybody on our team is so young besides myself, José and Big Cat. You know, I'm 29 and everyone else is 18, 20, 22, 23. So I bring that veteran role because I've been around older vets and it just trickles down" Lucas told me before Monday's tilt with Real Madrid.
"When you are young, you don't want to listen to anybody. You just want to go out and play like you have been, but the NBA game is more mental than it is just playing. You don't have 4 or 5 plays, you have 60, 80 plays. And when that play is called, you're going to have to know exactly where to be. It's a transition that the young guys are going to have to make."
Even if Lucas doesn't end up finding many minutes behind both Calderon and Lowry, it is clear that his experience and understanding of the NBA game will have a positive effect on this squad.
Having said that, there is always the possibility that the team will opt to move Jose Calderon. In which case, Lucas stands as a potential insurance policy and de facto replacement to back-up Kyle Lowry.
If this is indeed the case, Lucas will bring his scoring and leadership ability to a second unit that could use a bit of both.
Regardless how his season plays out, you can bet that John Lucas III will come to play every night and that can only be a good thing for the Toronto Raptors.