Bullet Coach Gene Shue said yesterday John Lucas will continue to see limited action in the playoffs as long as rookie Frank Johnson continues to play well.
Lucas, who said he has "no one to blame but myself" for his predicament, said he is eager to play and will wait to be called upon. What happens the remainder of the playoffs could also have a major bearing on Lucas' future with the team next season.
"I'm anxious to play and I think I can help us this series against Boston because I provide some experience and we need that, expecially since they have Tiny (Archibald)," Lucas said. "I have to be patient, though, and just keep my head mentally in the game so I won't blow it when I do get another chance. Frank has been playing very well, but I still think I can help."
"A lot depends on how well Frank plays," Shue said. "I'm not into that rotation thing like I used to be with those two. Frank has been playing terrific and he's been very steady. He will get a majority of the playing time and if he continues to do well he's the one who'll play."
Lucas played 12 minutes against the Celtics Sunday in the Bullets' 109-91 defeat in the first game of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series. He scored 10 points and had three assists and two steals. Most of his playing time came in the fourth period, after the outcome had been decided.
The second game of the series will be in Boston Wednesday night. In the two-game sweep of the New Jersey Nets in the first round of the playoffs, Lucas played a total of 15 minutes and had four assists and scored four points. He was used only when Johnson needed a rest.
In that series, Johnson averaged 17 points and 10 assists. He had 14 points and six assists against the Celtics.
This has been a trying season for Lucas, whom the Bullets acquired from Golden State before the start of the season, after Kevin Porter was lost because of a torn Achilles' tendon. Lucas' troubles here began when he failed to show up for a game in Philadelphia Jan. 6 and and admitted to having a problem with cocaine. He lost his starting job to Johnson at that time, but regained it after Johnson sprained an ankle a month later.
Lucas then missed another game in Philadelphia March 17 for "unspecified personal reasons," and again lost his job to Johnson. He has been a reserve since. Shue had been playing Lucas and Johnson more or less equally until then.
"This has been a very tough year for me as far as reliability goes," Lucas said yesterday, as Shue gave the team a day off.
"I hope I get a chance to help us beat Boston, but even if I don't, I plan to come back next year and try to be more reliable. I don't want to play anywhere else. This is my home and I want to play here. I think I played well enough here to stay, and, just think, if I played as well as I did with all the adversity how well I could do without it."
Lucas averaged 8.4 points in 79 games during the regular season and was second on the team in steals (1.2 a game) and first in assists (seven a game).
Porter has said he will try to return next season. If he does, the Bullets will have three playmaking guards 6-foot-2 or shorter. They will keep only two. Johnson, the best shooter of the three, is set. If Porter regains his form, that would make Lucas the odd man out.
"I haven't lifted weights or played ball in the summer the last three years, but I'm going to this year," said Lucas. "I could be fighting for a job and I don't want to lose. I know I don't have much of an outside shot, so I have to work on that to get the defense to respect it, which will make my penetrations more effective.
"I plan to be here next year and I also plan to play some more this year," he said.
The Bullets won't commit on Lucas' future. But Porter's condition will be a major factor, according to a source within the organization.
Lucas is in the first of a four-year $300,000-a-year contract. Only the first two years are guaranteed.
Lucas has maintained his brash, outgoing manner throughout this season. He was the first Bullet to predict his team would make the playoffs and the first to say they would sweep the Nets. His latest prediction is that the Bullets will beat the Celtics in six games.
Lucas said he told that to Cedric Maxwell, Kevin McHale and some other Celtics before Sunday's game. Lucas said they didn't laugh, "but during the National Anthem, McHale looked down at me and held up four fingers.
"I guess that's their prediction," he said.