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Lucas named Cavaliers' coach

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2001

CLEVELAND -- John Lucas' career and life have been about second chances, and on Tuesday he got another shot at being an NBA head coach -- this time in Cleveland.

Lucas, who also coached in San Antonio and Philadelphia before spending the past three seasons as an assistant in Denver, was hired by the Cavaliers exactly two months after the team fired Randy Wittman.

''I believe John is the right coach for our team right now,'' said general manager Jim Paxson. ''During my conversations with him over the past few weeks, it became clear that Cleveland is where he wants to be. He was very enthusiastic about our players, and knows we need to add to this but feels we can get better along the way.''

The 47-year-old Lucas, a point guard for 13 NBA seasons who had to overcome drug addiction, was signed to a reported three-year deal worth between $8 million and $9 million.

The hiring of the 13th coach in the club's history ended a drawn-out search by the Cavs. They were criticized for their secrecy and failure to pursue big-name candidates to replace Wittman, who went 62-102 the past two seasons.

Lucas has a combined 136-171 record in two previous coaching stops with San Antonio (1992-94) and Philadelphia (1994-96) where he also was the general manager and director of basketball operations for the 76ers.

But all he'll have to do in Cleveland is fix the Cavs, who won just 32 games last season -- their fewest since 1986-87 -- and fell apart after a strong start when center Zydrunas Ilgauskas sustained a season-ending foot injury.

''I want to try and win now,'' Lucas said. ''This is a second chance for all of us. I want to work with what we have to find a way to win. I feel like we can win together, and there are some very good pieces already in place.''

During his previous head coaching stints and as an assistant, Lucas has earned a reputation for being both a workaholic and an excellent communicator who relates to his players and brings out the best in them.

Lucas, who overcame cocaine addiction and has been sober since 1986, draws from his life experiences to teach his players and connects with them on a more personal level.

Saunders agrees to 5-year extension with Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders has agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $20 million, according to reports Tuesday.

Saunders, who earlier Tuesday had been given permission by Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor to negotiate with Portland for their coaching vacancy, reportedly turned down a five-year, $30 million offer from the Trail Blazers.

Saunders' current deal, which expires at the end of the 2001-02 season, was worth $2.5 million per season. Saunders is expected to sign the deal in the next few days, according to the Star Tribune and WCCO Radio.

Pacers sign 2000 first-round pick

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers, who do not have a first-round pick in this year's NBA draft, have signed 7-foot-1 center Primoz Brezec to a multiyear contract.

Brezec was Indiana's top pick, 27th overall, in the draft last year, but played with Slovenia's B.C. Olimpija Ljubljana in the top European league.

In 44 games with Olimpija Ljubljana, he averaged 10.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 19.9 minutes and shot 72.9 percent from the field. He averaged 10.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in the EuroLeague playoffs, when Olimpija reached the quarterfinals before being eliminated by eventual champion Kinder Bologna of Italy.

''We're extremely happy to have Primoz Brezec sign and grateful to Olimpija Ljubljana for letting him out of the remaining year of his contract,'' Pacers president Donnie Walsh said Monday.

NBA playoffs sets attendance record

NEW YORK -- The NBA playoffs produced record turnouts this season, averaging more than 20,000 fans per game for the first time.

The league said Tuesday that the 71 playoff games drew a total of 1,460,086 fans, an average of 20,565. The numbers were up more than 8 percent over last year's playoffs, the league said.

The previous record was 1,426,506 fans for the 75 playoff games in 2000, an average of 19,020.

Jazz player charged with raping a minor

FRESNO, Calif. -- Utah Jazz rookie DeShawn Stevenson has been charged with statutory rape for having sex with a 14-year-old girl, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Stevenson, a 6-foot-5 guard who went from high school directly to the NBA last year, was charged last week in Fresno Superior Court, chief deputy district attorney Liz Mitchell said.

The 20-year-old Stevenson, a Fresno native who went to Washington Union H.S. in nearby Easton, faces up to three years in state prison if convicted. His whereabouts Tuesday were not immediately known.

Officers from the State Department of Justice were at the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport on Tuesday evening. They said they expected Stevenson to fly in and were waiting to arrest him.

A warrant was issued Monday for Stevenson's arrest, the Fresno County Sheriff's Department said.

Stevenson is accused of having sex with the girl during a visit to Fresno in the past six weeks, Mitchell said. She didn't have any other details.

''I didn't even know he played basketball,'' Mitchell said. ''I have no idea what he was doing in Fresno.''

Neither the Jazz nor Stevenson's agent, Rob Pelinka, would comment Tuesday. Stevenson's lawyer, Richard Berman, did not immediately return several messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Stevenson played in 40 games for the Jazz as a rookie, averaging 2.2 points and 0.7 rebounds. He was placed on the injured list March 2 with tendinitis in his right knee and was reactivated April 11.

This is the second time Stevenson has run into legal troubles since he was drafted in the first round by Utah last year, the 23rd pick overall.

On the night he was drafted, Stevenson was involved in a brawl at a high school all-star basketball game in neighboring Clovis.

Stevenson, who did not play in the June 28 game, said he was jumped by five men after signing autographs. He pleaded innocent to charges of fighting in a public place.



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