International man of mentoring: Experiences away from NBA drive Jazz guard John Lucas III
That’s just one of the many things the Jazz coach admires about Lucas.
"He’s a fireball,” Corbin said. “He comes off with a lot of energy. He can make shots. He can play the game right."
Along with being one of the most spirited and energetic players, he’s also the smallest. Lucas is one of few NBA players that doesn’t hit the 6-foot mark, in fact. He is listed, perhaps generously, as being 5 foot 11.
“He’s a little guy who had to fight and scratch for everything he’s gotten in this league,” Corbin said. “He knows the battle that guys are going through, especially the guys that are trying to make the squad.”
Both Lucases are quite familiar with overcoming adversity, too. Lucas’ father’s battle — and victory over — drug/alcohol addiction has been well-documented over the years.
Corbin credited the Jazz's Lucas for having the love of basketball, the excellent communication and leadership skills, and the aggressiveness of his father, who played off and on in the NBA from 1976-90. The elder Lucas had multiple coaching stints in the league, including with the Spurs, 76ers and Cavaliers.
“(Lucas II) loved teaching. He loved pushing himself. He loved working hard,” Corbin said of the former NBA player and coach. “(Lucas III) grew up in it. He’s been around basketball forever, so he knows what it takes to be good in this league and knows what it takes to try to be successful in this league, and he tries to share that with his teammates.”
That positivity was in full display in the aftermath of Burke’s injury when Lucas III offered consolation in the locker room after the rookie broke his finger, saying the situation was “a minor setback for a major comeback.”
Just look at Lucas’ passport and basketball resume, and it’s obvious he knows a little something about that.
He knows about seizing opportunities, too.
“I never want to let the (Jazz) organization down, the team down or our coaching staff down,” he said. “That’s why I bring it every night.”
Lucas, who turns 31 on Nov. 21, also feels a responsibility to mentor Burke and other young Utah players. Lucas and Richard Jefferson, 33, are the team's only 30-somethings with guaranteed contracts.
“I haven’t been part of a team this young,” Lucas said. “It’s fun. I’m enjoying it. It keeps me young.”
Lucas knows that some consider professional athletes his age to be ancient relics.
“People start looking at you a little bit different,” he said. “My whole thing is I want to play until the wheels fall off, until I know that I can’t compete at that high level and give that energy I come in with to give night and night out.
“I’m a big kid at heart,” he added, “so I feel like I fit right in.”
Of course, feeling old sure beats playing in China, not to mention cleaning up Rodman’s discarded toenails.
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