HOUSTON -- In a way, John Lucas III started playing in the
NBA when he was 4, shagging rebounds as a ball boy for his father
and the rest of the Houston Rockets.
Now, the 23-year-old rookie from Oklahoma State is officially an
NBA player -- given that chance by the same team that drafted his
dad in 1976.
The injury-depleted Rockets signed Lucas III on Thursday. He'll
wear his father's old No. 15 when Houston plays Golden State at the
Toyota Center on Saturday night.
"I always felt like I belonged here," Lucas said Friday. "I
feel at home. I don't feel like a newcomer. This is what my father
and I have been training for."
The elder Lucas, now 52, played 14 NBA seasons, with the
Rockets, Golden State, Washington, San Antonio, Milwaukee and
Seattle. He later coached the Spurs, Philadelphia and Cleveland,
but his heart and home always stayed in Houston, where he opened a
substance-abuse center for professional athletes.
"That is really, really special that the team that's giving him
a chance is my team," said Lucas, Jr.
Lucas III starred at Bellaire High School in Houston, scoring
more than 3,300 points. The 6-foot point guard played two seasons
at Baylor, then transferred to Oklahoma State, where he finished
his career among the top 5 in Big 12 history in points (1,877),
3-pointers (281) and assists (535).
Undrafted in the summer, Lucas III signed a free-agent contract
with Minnesota, but was cut in the preseason. He was playing for
Tulsa of the NBA's developmental league when the Rockets contacted
"I've always wanted to play for the Houston Rockets, ever since
I was a little bitty boy," Lucas III said. "Finally, my dream
Lucas III was at his father's side at all of his NBA stops and
the elder Lucas thinks those experiences will help his son adjust
to NBA life without ever being starstruck.
"He's grown up with it. He's been to All-Star games and in the
locker room, so John won't be in awe of those guys," Lucas, Jr.
But as his father warned, the son's NBA career can end as
quickly as it starts if he fails to perform.
"I can't get caught up in the moment," Lucas III said. "I'm
out here to do a job."
The Rockets certainly didn't sign him for sentimental reasons.
They're in last place in the Southwest Division and have lost four
straight games as they continue to deal with injuries, mostly in
the backcourt. Guards Rafer Alston, Derek Anderson and Jon Barry
have missed a total of 39 games with leg problems and another
guard, Bob Sura, is lost for the season after back surgery in
Lucas III was the last player to leave the practice floor on
Friday, shooting jumper after jumper as reporters waited to talk to
him. Despite his eagerness, Coach Jeff Van Gundy is skeptical about
what Lucas III can contribute.
"I really have no expectations," Van Gundy said.
But Van Gundy has already noticed a strong work ethic that could
keep Lucas III in the NBA for a long time.
"What he has that's greater than most guys is a better sense of
professionalism," Van Gundy said. "There are some guys we bring
in here -- they may have talent, but they're absolute
nonprofessional guys. They don't even have the basics of being in
great shape or listening. To me, he just stands out in the basic,
rudimentary things you need to be a professional."
Lucas III could hardly contain his smile as he talked about the
possibilities for his future.
"I'm just going to take a deep breath, because I finally made
it, I'm finally here," said Lucas.