Lucas suspended; Cavs fined

May 29, 2002 at 2:06 AM
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CLEVELAND, May 29 (UPI) -- The NBA announced Tuesday that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been fined $150,000 and Coach John Lucas has been suspended for the first two regular season games of the 2002-03 season for violating league rules prohibiting contact between NBA teams and players not yet eligible for the NBA Draft.

The Cavaliers and Lucas violated this rule on May 22, when they allowed several ineligible players to participate in an informal and voluntary workout with Cavaliers' players at the team's practice facility.

The rule in question states, "teams may not directly or indirectly have or engage or attempt to have or engage in any discussion, communications or contact whatsoever with any player who has remaining intercollegiate basketball eligibility or is otherwise ineligible to be selected in such draft."

One of those players was LeBron James, who is widely regarded as the No. 1 scholastic hoopster in the nation. He just finished his junior season at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, but the workout is puzzling since James, by league rules, would not be eligible for the NBA draft until he graduates in 2003.

The 6-7 James, who averaged 29 ppg last season, was the only high school player invited to the workout, which was also attended by Cleveland-area college players and a couple of NBA free agents. Reports have indicated that James is considering skipping his senior campaign in high school in 2003 to play overseas.

James competed on a team with players from Cleveland State University and Lucas' son John Jr., a freshman guard at Baylor. The were playing against Cavs players Bimbo Coles, Chris Mihm, DeSagana Diop, Jumaine Jones and Bryant Stith.

Former Toronto Raptors assistant coach Johnny Clark witnessed the workout, and told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that James was nothing short of impressive.

"He's something else," Clark told the paper. "Instead of LeBron looking out of place being out there with NBA players, he looked like one of them. He fit right in."

Jones went quite a bit farther in assessing James' dazzling performance.

"He's the most developed high school player I've ever seen and he has another year of high school," said Jones. "He's very mature physically and mentally. Unlike most high school players, he wants to do more than just score. He likes to get everyone involved. He could play in the league right now."

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