Given say, Lucas' Spurs speak volumes San Antonio ups first-place margin

February 03, 1993|By Howard Blatt | Howard Blatt,New York Daily News

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The San Antonio Spurs are doing it John Lucas' unconventional lean-on-your-leaders way these days. The San Antonio coach calls himself "the manager," calls David Robinson "the president" and Dale Ellis and Sean Elliott "the vice presidents" -- and there are no dissenters in the ranks.

How could there be when the Spurs came out of last night's 111-93 victory over the New Jersey Nets at the HemisFair Arena with a 17-3 record with the onetime NBA drug dropout-turned-rehabilitator at the helm?

Who would utter a disparaging word when, thanks to the NBA Coach of the Month of January (12-2), San Antonio had moved 16 percentage points ahead of the Utah Jazz for first place in the Midwest Division at 27-14 overall and 17-4 at home?

In his first game after taking the Spurs over from Jerry ("I need a point guard") Tarkanian on Dec. 22, Lucas let Vinnie Del Negro and later Avery Johnson address the team during timeouts.

"That way, you make them take some ownership, because they are not listening to me anyway," he said. "It's their team. I'm just happy to be a part of it."

Robinson, the All-Star center, was listening when Lucas got in his face about being out of shape and admitted Lucas might be right. All the Spurs were listening when he sat down Lloyd Daniels and resurrected the veteran Ellis.

"I knew what Dale could do," Lucas said of his former teammate in Seattle. "You had a rookie playing ahead of an All-Star. Lloyd wasn't doing the things you have to do in this league. He was getting unearned minutes."

Somewhat out of injury-based necessity, Lucas installed Johnson -- another of his former Sonic teammates -- as the playmaking engine of his team in place of Del Negro and that move triggered a 10-game winning streak.

Johnson has averaged 12.3 points and 10.7 assists in his 12 starts, 11 of which were victories.

Even J. R. Reid has shown signs of blossoming under Lucas into the player the Charlotte Hornets had concluded he would never become.

None of the decisions Lucas, 40, has had to make in his first pro coaching job ranks with the one he made to stay away from drugs at last, that on March 14, 1986 -- after they had ended his NBA career after 14 years and nearly cost him his life.

"I'm just glad I didn't get out of life what I really deserved -- I'm not dead," Lucas has said. "Whether I fail or make it as a coach, I will let other people like me know that I believe in miracles, because I am one."

And Lucas has the Spurs believing in themselves.

"Everyone kept saying we didn't have a point guard," said Robinson, a 23.9-point scorer with 163 blocks. "After a while that stuff starts hurting you. Luke has believed in us from the first day. He knew we had the talent to win. He brought us confidence, intensity and a certain level of expectation.

"Luke is in charge. He sets a general structure and then we are allowed to make decisions within that structure. He doesn't try to make us fit a mold. A Dale Ellis and a Lloyd Daniels don't fit a mold."

Last night, Ellis scored 24 points, Robinson added 17 and the Spurs shot 57 percent from the field in beating the Nets.

New Jersey was led by Derrick Coleman, who had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Chris Morris, who scored 20 points.

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