Houston • Over the years, players of all ages have leaned on John Lucas’ knowledge of the game. It’s been a decade since he coached a game in the NBA, but his impact can be seen around the league in the players who come to this city seeking his mentorship in the summers.
One player who has always turned to him for help: his son, Jazz point guard John Lucas III.
“We talk a lot,” the younger Lucas said. “Especially this season.”
A free-agent signing by the Jazz in July, Lucas was expected to back up rookie point guard Trey Burke. The 31-year-old journeyman, whose career started with the Rockets in 2005 but has since taken him across the globe, ended up starting six games for Utah after Burke fractured his index finger in the preseason.
But the Jazz soon added point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who was soon waived to make way for another young floor leader in Diante Garrett. And over the course of the year, Lucas has been pushed out of the rotation almost entirely.
“It’s not what I expected,” Lucas said of his situation. “But you never know what happens. It’s part of the job. It’s part of the career we chose. We’re young, player development stuff. I buy into the system. I buy into what coach is trying to do. So I don’t complain. I don’t argue.”
Lucas is averaging 4.1 points and 1.1 assists in his 36 appearances. He has logged only 31 minutes on the floor since the start of February, and his deal is not guaranteed beyond this year.
“Nobody’s job is secure here in the league,” he said. “You might be here one minute. You might be on another team the next minute. It’s about staying with it. But I know what I can do. I know what I’m capable of doing. … I’m not worried about anything. What happens in the summer, I take it on, I look at it, I say let’s go. I’m up for any challenge. I’ve never backed away from a challenge and I never will.”
On Monday, Lucas expected a large show of support from family and friends in the stands at the Toyota Center. His father, of course, would be among them.
“We talk about basketball,” Lucas III said. “How to stay with it. ‘Don’t get frustrated, keep being the person that I raised you to be. Try to help when you can and when you’re out there, give it all you got.’ And that’s all I do when I step on the court, even if it’s for a minute, two minutes, three minutes, because I love the game of basketball.”
In the blood
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich isn’t known for dishing out niceties for the sake of being nice. So perhaps the Jazz can take some solace in his assessment of their play after Sunday’s 122-104 blowout loss.
“It’s like in the blood in Utah,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who is on their team, I think they set picks better than anyone else. They set up their cuts. They get in to you and they get physical. They really play the right way. I have respected them as you know for a long time. It never changes. They do it for 48 minutes every night. It is just a heck of a culture that they have.”