Bullet Coach Gene Shue said yesterday he doesn't speak to John Lucas anymore "because I can't believe a thing he says." He also said he now considers Lucas a "bench player" and will not depend on him as he has in the past.
"I have no reason to talk to him," Shue said yesterday, less than 24 hours after the Bullets announced they would take no disciplinary action other than fining Lucas for missing Wednesday night's game in Philadelphia.
"I've talked to him before, given him advice and everything and he's looked right at me and lied," Shue said. "I don't believe anything he says anymore. Frank Johnson is the starting guard now and John will come in off the bench. If he can help the team, fine, but I don't want anything to do with him in any other area.
"I never asked why he missed the game in Philadelphia because I really don't care. I couldn't believe what he would say anyway."
Johnson started last night and scored eight points and had 10 assists in 39 minutes as the Bullets beat San Diego, 108-98.
There was a mixture of boos and applause when Lucas entered the game at Capital Centre with 8:50 left in the second quarter. He missed the only shot he took and had no assists. He played out the quarter, but did not play in the second half.
"I just don't know how I'm going to use him, but he's going to play," said Shue.
Bullet sources say Lucas wasn't suspended for missing Wednesday's game because it is too late in the season to find someone better to replace him. They also said team owner Abe Pollin ultimately made the decision to keep Lucas.
Lucas said again yesterday that unspecified "personal problems" caused him to miss Wednesday night's game without notifying the team. He said he would have no further comment.
Lucas missed an earlier game in Philadelphia Jan. 6 because of what he later admitted was a problem with cocaine. At that time, National Basketball Association Commissioner Larry O'Brien said he would immediately suspend Lucas if there were any further involvement with illegal drugs.
An investigation by the NBA Thursday concluded that Lucas' disappearance Wednesday "was not drug related." The league left all disciplinary action up to the Bullets, who fined Lucas approximately $4,200. Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry said yesterday he accepted the league's findings.
Ferry added, "My understanding is that the only way to cure an admitted drug problem is to change your entire life style. If you don't, you're sitting on a time bomb."
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 Henry Raymond, a psychologist at Bowie State College.
Raymond coordinated a complete medical examination of Lucas on Thursday at the direction of the NBA. He was unavailable for comment yesterday. Dr. Steven DuVall of the Life Extension Institute, who is overseeing Lucas' treatments, said Lucas "is recovering from what is a serious problem and that isn't a two-week process. He's going to have some problems from time to time dealing with a new life style. His problems Wednesday are a reflection of that.
"John is disappointed this happened," DuVall said. "He messed up and he knows it. There are just a whole set of things he has to learn to deal with more smoothly."
Ferry said that because of Lucas' past behavior, he didn't even ask what the personal problems were. "I've been in the league long enough to know a player can come up with any story he wants," Ferry said. "So why get involved?
"I don't know the exact reason he wasn't at the game," Ferry said. "We understand he has severe personal problems and this is just a recurrence. He's under medical care and we chose to go along with the program basically because Abe Pollin is a compassionate man.
"I'm sure someday, though, if this stuff continues, it will become unbearable. If it weren't for Mr. Pollin's strong feeling for John, he might have already exhausted all of his chances with us."
Lucas was at the Bullets' one-hour 11 a.m. workout at Capital Centre yesterday. Before the workout, he joked with several teammates, but once the practice started, Lucas stood under one basket and did very little. Shue never looked at or spoke to him.
As soon as the workout ended, Lucas headed for an exit. Asked why he missed the game, he tried to make small talk, then finally said, "No comment," and left the arena.
In recent days, some Bullets in a position to know had speculated privately that a lack of playing time may have caused Lucas to become withdrawn and may have contributed to his missing Wednesday's game. They said, however, any dissatisfaction he may have had with his playing time was no reason for him to disappear.
Under Shue's system, players who produce, play. Some nights Lucas has been effective, other nights he has not been a factor. When the Bullets can run and can play a wide-open game, Lucas is valuable. When the team must set up and play under control, Lucas sometimes is a liability. Defense has never been a strong part of his game.
"Some games he plays more than Frank and Frank doesn't disappear," one Bullet said. "We all feel bad for John, but we're trying to make the playoffs. We don't need this nonsense."