Bullet guard John Lucas underwent a physical examination yesterday on orders from the National Basketball Association, which announced last night that his absence from a game Wednesday night in Philadelphia "was not drug related."
Lucas, who missed the team bus Wednesday at noon and failed to show up for that night's game against the 76ers, has been fined for his actions. The Bullets said last night that was the only disciplinary action they would take against Lucas.
The fine is believed to be $100 for missing the bus and 1/82nd of Lucas' salary, or approximately $4,000, for missing the game.
Lucas missed an earlier game in Philadelphia Jan. 6 because of what he later admitted was a problem with cocaine. At that time, NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien said he would immediately suspend Lucas if there were any further involvement with illegal drugs.
Yesterday, after the Bullets met with Lucas and his attorneys, the NBA investigated before turning the matter back over to the team. In a statement issued last night, O'Brien said, "I see no reason for taking any action at this time as his (Lucas') absence appears to be a matter between Lucas and the team, unrelated to any greater league concerns."
Earlier in the day, Lucas declined to comment on his reasons for missing the game. After the NBA's announcement, Lucas was not available for comment.
The NBA's decision to turn over the matter to the Bullets prompted another meeting of team officials, who at that time decided to fine but not suspend Lucas. "He will be fined for missing the team bus and the game and we now regard the incident as closed," said Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry.
Ferry declined to discuss the reasons for Lucas' absence Wednesday and referred to them only as "personal problems."
When Lucas' cocaine problem became public in January, he was ordered to undergo an intensive rehabilitation program under the direction of the Life Extension Institute, a national health organization that has a working agreement with the NBA. The Life Extension Institute referred Lucas to Dr. Henry Raymond of Bowie State College.
As part of yesterday's investigation, O'Brien ordered Lucas to be examined by Raymond at the Life Extension Institute's Baltimore office. O'Brien, in his statement, said that, after giving Lucas a complete medical examination, Raymond concluded "his absence yesterday (Wednesday) was not drug related."
O'Brien also said that he had been advised by Dr. Steven DuVall of the Life Extension Institute that Lucas has regularly attended the treatment program with Raymond that was set up in January.
When contacted at his home early yesterday morning, Lucas said he was all right and chatted about the game the previous night. He said he wouldn't talk about why he missed the game until after he had spoken with his attorney David Falk and the Bullets. At that time he said he hadn't talked with either.
"I plan to be at practice at noon unless they tell me not to come," he said.
They told him not to come.
Ferry, instead, summoned Lucas, Falk and attorney Donald Dell to Capital Centre for a 1:15 p.m. meeting with owner Abe Pollin and Bullet attorney David Osnos.
Lucas entered and exited through a back door, avoiding televison cameras and reporters.
No one will say specifically what caused Lucas to miss the 76er game Wednesday. His teammate, Don Collins, said he was riding with Lucas to Capital Centre Wednesday to catch the team bus to Philadelphia. Neither man made the bus.
Collins arrived in Philadelphia on his own. When asked after the game why he had missed the bus, he said, "No comment. Ask the coach."
Bullet Coach Gene Shue said Collins told him that Lucas began to act strangely during the drive. According to Shue, Collins told Lucas to take him back home. Lucas obliged and Collins called the Bullet office, informing the team that he wouldn't make the bus, but would get to Philadelphia on his own.
Lucas lost his starting job to rookie Frank Johnson after the Jan. 6 incident, but regained it when Johnson sprained his ankle in Kansas City Jan. 23. Without Lucas Wednesday, Johnson played 43 minutes and another rookie, Garry Witts served as the backup playmaker. Lucas will be in uniform tonight when the Bullets play the Indiana Pacers at Capital Centre at 8, but Shue, who called Lucas "disruptive," said he is uncertain what role he would play the rest of the season.
"It's not right to say I've run out of patience with him because I've been very patient," said Shue. "I'm just going to do what I think is best for the team when it comes to who plays and how much."