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Q & A With Maurice Lucas

  1. Written by: caseyholdahl

    They don’t come any tougher than Maurice Lucas.  Luke’s reputation as a bruising, trash-taking power forward with the game to back it up was forged throughout a 14-year career in the NBA and ABA.  

    Diagnosed with bladder cancer while serving as an assistant coach during the 2008-09 season, Lucas continues display the trademark strength and determination that served him so well as “The Enforcer.”

    Lucas recently talked with Casey Holdahl of about his recovery, the development of Greg Oden and the team’s 40th anniversary.

    How was your summer? You’ve probably been itching to get back into the gym after spending some time away last season.

    “The summer was long. I didn’t do much. Just tried to take care of my health. It’s up and down. Some days you have good days and some days you have questionable days.  As far as where I’m supposed to be, I’m there. As far as where the doctors project me to be, I’m there. I’m feeling good, but it’s still a process.”

    Do you feel like you’ve learned anything about yourself through this period?

    “You learn a hell of a lot about the human anatomy. And you learn a lot about patience too. The one thing that I’m finding is an issue for me is learning patience, being patient with myself. I’m trying to understand what this process is all about. It takes a little longer amount of time than I’d like it to take in order to recover. But it is what it is and I’m not in charge of it. I’ve just got to play my role, be patient, feed myself well, take the right meds and see if I can get back on track.

    “I’m used to action, but I’m not in the physical place yet to get back in there and bump with some of the bigs, get to close to guys and let them bump on me. As a result I’ve got to lay back a little bit and get away from like the baseline, don’t let guys run into me on layups, until I heal. That’s a process.”

    Has your recovery changed the way you go about working with the players?

    “It’s mostly an audible style of coaching now.  It’s talking rather than a ‘show me’ kind of coach that gets down in the trenches. I can still show the technique, show them through the techniques, but I can’t take the bumps yet.

    Do you feel like being back around the team helps in your recovery?

    “I think it does, it does. It keeps my mind off of my personal healthy situation and it gives me that outlet to have other things happen on a daily basis.”

    What have you seen from Greg Oden since you’ve been back working with him? What changes have you seen in his game?

    “I would say his biggest plus right now is his confidence and his ability to relax and let the game come to him. Once you receive the ball in the post, take your time. He’s rebounding a lot better because he’s going after it. He’s in a lot better shape. He’s starting to understand what NBA conditioning means.

    “From all the hype he received early on, he thought he could walk in and just do his thing. Come to find out you just can’t walk in this game and do your thing, I don’t care how big and strong you are. If you look at the history of the game, none of those big guys came in and dominated right off the bat until they figured out how the game was played. It’s just taken him a little longer to figure out that he has to do something different. He’s got to be in better shape and better condition. He’s got to regain that confidence that he had when he was at Ohio State.

    “I think he’s made some very nice strides this summer. He’s got his confidence moving in the right direction. His footwork is much better and I think (assistant coach) Billy Bayno has done a real nice job with him, encouraging him to get better. Every time I talk to him, all I do is encourage him to do better.  You’ve got the potential to be a superstar player, but you’ve got to lay that potential out on the floor because if you don’t, no one will ever see it. So the important thing is to make him realize that ‘yeah, I do have this potential. Now how do I get it out of here?’”

    So when you came out of Marquette you didn’t walk onto the court and dominate right away?

    “I didn’t! My first year, I didn’t play the first 30 games or so. I was sitting on the bench. A guy went AWOL and I had an opportunity to play and I never relinquished that opportunity.”

    Looking at the personnel this team has, what do you think it is capable of?

    “A young team that is as talented as they are, you have to think in terms of the max, meaning championship series and winning a championship. That would be the ultimate. But I think they’ve got the potential to do so.

    “You look at the depth on this team and you have some guys who are pretty good in your starting lineup, guys that are pretty good in your second lineup. The 13th, 14th players are pretty good players. So you’ve just got to get the maximum out of each one of those guys, especially the bigs: LaMarcus, Travis, Greg and Joel. These guys are security blankets. The guys who are going to play most of the time, we’ve got to get it out of them. They’ve got to want to win it, too. They cannot accept mediocrity. They’ve got to accept the fact that yeah, we have potential to be a championship team.”

    You’ve been around, either as a member of the team or of the Portland community, for most of the franchise’s 40 years. What are your thoughts on the team’s anniversary?

    “I’m glad to be around. I know I’m old. I’ve got no reservations about my age. It just reminds me of the 33 years that have pasted since I first got here. That was a long time ago. My kids have grown up, gone on. It’s amazing.”

    Did you ever think you’d be around this long?

    “When you’re young you don’t think about all that kind of stuff, being in a city or staying somewhere because you don’t know.

    “The way the business is designed, once you’re no longer useful to that team, that new system that some new coach came in with, that you have to move on to the next system. Hopefully you stay around long enough. For some guy like Clyde, Jerome, Terry, those guys stayed here for a big chunk of time, but as they matured you saw them move off to different teams. That’s just the nature of the business.”


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