OK, that’s not quite what the veteran NBA coach / substance abuse specialist said. But Lucas, currently toiling as an assistant to Mike Dunleavy with the Clippers, told NBA Fanhouse’s Chris Tommason his 2002-2003 Cleveland Cavaliers were given an unspoken directive to lose and lose often, what with the big prize of LeBron James looking in the June ’03 draft. Sound familiar, Doc Rivers?
“As angry as I am about the situation of being there, I was there at the wrong time,” Lucas said. “But, for the organization, it was absolutely the right move. I’m angry because I should be a big boy because I got paid a lot of money (Lucas was fired with 1 ½ years left on his contract). But you want a chance to be able to be there for a while. You knew what the mission was. You just hoped you could get there to get that.”
Instead, Lucas got fired. He didn’t take another NBA job until Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, a friend since the two were Houston teammates in 1977-78, invited him back last fall to serve as an assistant.
“The Cleveland Cavaliers situation really beat me up,” said Lucas, who was suspended by the NBA for the first two games of the 2002-03 season due to illegally bringing in James for a voluntary workout with Cavaliers players in May 2002, late in James’ junior year. “I didn’t know until you get into the inner loop, after you take the job, what their real mission is. … So I was really beat up from the Cleveland situation and so it took me this long to be back (in the NBA).”
Before the 2002-03 season, the team traded its top three scorers in Lamond Murray, Andre Miller and Wesley Person, getting little for Person and Murray. Miller had led the NBA in assists in 2001-02 with a 10.9 average.
Lucas said he was told during the 2002-03 season to use young players, and was discouraged from using veterans such as forward Tyrone Hill and point guard Bimbo Coles.
“What you can’t talk about is, ‘We’re trying to get LeBron,”’ Lucas said of the climate that season. “You can’t say that (to the fans).’