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Lucas Is Fired by Cavaliers

January 21, 2003|From Associated Press

John Lucas couldn't make winners out of the Cleveland Cavaliers, so Keith Smart is getting a shot.

He has made a big one before.

Lucas was fired Monday by the Cavaliers, who at 8-34 have the NBA's worst record, an apathetic fan base, complacent players and an assortment of other problems.

"We've been pretty much the laughingstock of the league," said guard Bimbo Coles. "It has been a circus or a zoo around here."

Lucas, who was in his second season with the Cavaliers and had another year remaining on a three-year, $9-million contract, was replaced by Smart.

Smart, best known for making the game-winning jump shot for Indiana in the 1987 NCAA championship game against Syracuse, inherits the league's youngest team and all of Lucas' headaches.

"I told the players, we have an open book," said the 38-year-old Smart, who spent three seasons as a head coach in the CBA before joining Cleveland as an assistant. "We're starting fresh."

Smart will make his debut at home tonight against Orlando. He is the league's second-youngest coach behind Golden State's Eric Musselman, who coached Smart in the CBA.

The 49-year-old Lucas went 37-87 in 1 1/2 seasons in Cleveland. He wasn't bitter about being replaced and said he's proud of what he did accomplish.

"My time was up," Lucas said. "It was time to move on. There were tough circumstances. But I tried to do the best job I could with what I was given. It didn't work out. I gave every ounce of energy I had and put my heart into it. It wasn't good enough."

Cleveland General Manager Jim Paxson met with Lucas on Monday morning to tell him he was being dismissed. Assistant coach Jerry Eaves also was fired, while another assistant, Ron Ekker, was retained.

"We have talent on this team," Paxson said. "It's young, but we do have talent. We've got a good group. I don't think this team needs discipline. It needs more structure, consistency and direction."

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Commissioner David Stern defended the NBA's seven-game suspension of Portland Trail Blazer star Rasheed Wallace, saying the league won't tolerate threats against officials.

"You can't have somebody menacing an official on their way out of the building and threatening to do violence to him," Stern said Monday before the Trail Blazers' game against Memphis. "It's just not going to be acceptable. Anyone who thinks it is had better find another place to ply their trade because it is not going to be in the NBA."

Wallace was suspended Saturday for a confrontation with referee Tim Donaghy on the Rose Garden loading dock in Portland after the Trail Blazers' 100-92 victory over Memphis last week. Wallace had a season-high 38 points on 16-for-20 shooting from the field. But Donaghy whistled Wallace for a technical foul in the third quarter.

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The Chicago Bulls put rookie point guard Jay Williams on the injured list because of a sprained left ankle and activated Rick Brunson.... The New Orleans Hornets signed veteran guard Robert Pack to a second 10-day contract. Pack has averaged 4.3 points and three assists in four games since signing a 10-day contract on Jan. 10.

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