The Washington Bullets ran out of patience with guard John Lucas yesterday, waiving him after he missed practice for the third time this season.
Lucas, 29, a former all-America at Maryland, missed two games and three practices last season. He said a problem with cocaine was the reason, and went through a six-week rehabilitation program in the offseason.
Things progressed smoothly this season until Lucas missed practice Nov. 30 and again Dec. 11.
The Bullets held a practice yesterday morning, then left for their game tonight against the Celtics at Boston Garden (WDCA-TV-20 at 7:30).
Lucas' attorney, David Falk, called the Bullets' office after the 11 a.m. practice had started. He told General Manager Bob Ferry that Lucas was having some trouble at home and would be late for practice.
He didn't arrive.
After Coach Gene Shue talked with Ferry, Ferry met with team owner Abe Pollin. The decision to cut Lucas was made late yesterday afternoon.
"The reasons for this action were a series of unexcused and unexplained absences from practice," said Ferry. "I think there are so many obvious things to be said but, for the good of John, the least said now the best."
While he was at Golden State during the 1980-81 season, Lucas missed, without explanation, nearly a dozen practices and a number of games.
He was a free agent that season, but the Warriors chose not to re-sign him. After Lucas signed a five-year, $300,000-a-year offer sheet with the Utah Jazz, the Warriors matched the offer and traded him to the Bullets for two second-round draft choices.
The Bullets said they knew of Lucas' off-court problems when they signed him, but when Kevin Porter ruptured his Achilles' tendon in training camp in September 1981, they were desperate for an experienced play-making guard and made the deal for Lucas.
Stipulations were put into Lucas' contract that would release the Bullets from it should his off-court problems warrant it, even though he is in the second year of the contract.
If Lucas is not claimed off waivers in 48 hours, the Bullets said, his contract will be terminated and they will stop paying him.
The Bullets tried to trade Lucas during the offseason, but there was no interest in him, the team said.
"Today has been a terribly disappointing day for John, his family, the Washington Bullets and me personally," said Falk. "Ever since John publicly admitted his problem, almost a year to date, our firm has worked hard with him with the hopes that this very thing would never happen."
Falk added that he felt the Bullets had "shown a tremendous sense of fairness and sensitivity with John during a very trying time in his life. I think (Bullets owner) Abe Pollin gave John every reasonable chance to succeed, and so did Bob Ferry. We have no complaints with them whatsoever."
Lucas declined to comment and Falk said that there wasn't much he (Lucas) would say, anyway. "I think it will take about a week for it all to sink in."
Lucas played in 35 games this season. He averaged 4.1 points and 2.9 assists.
Lucas became expendable Monday when the Bullets signed free agent guard Ricky Sobers to a multiyear contract. Sobers, 6 feet 3, had played the previous three seasons with Chicago and has a 14-point average over his seven-year career.
The waiving of Lucas leaves the Bullets with 11 players, one short of the league maximum. Ferry said they probably will stay that way until Don Collins comes off the injured list. Collins, out with a stress fracture in his left foot, is expected back in a few weeks.