NBA Fines, Suspends Cavs Coach For Including High School Star In Workout
May 28, 2002 at 7:20 PM EDT - Updated July 27 at 7:51 PM
By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - LeBron James has drawn his first NBA foul -- and it cost the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The league Tuesday fined the Cavs $150,000 and suspended coach John Lucas for the first two regular-season games next season for including James, the nation's top high school basketball player, in a voluntary workout for players last week at Gund Arena.
In a statement, the league said Lucas was fined for "violating league rules prohibiting contact between NBA teams and players not yet eligible for the NBA Draft."
James, a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, was invited to a May 22 workout along with several local college players and some free agents by Lucas.
Cavaliers spokesman Ed Markey declined to comment, and Lucas did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
According to the NBA's operations manual, the Cavs were prohibited from having contact with a player not yet eligible for the NBA draft.
The league's rules state, "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."
The NBA prohibits players from entering the draft before their class graduates from high school.
Last week, James played on a team with Lucas' son, John Jr., a freshman guard at Baylor, and later played point guard on a team of Cleveland players.
The 17-year-old James dazzled the Cavs and others in attendance, soaring for several spectacular dunks and showing why many believe he will be the first player taken in the 2003 NBA draft if he decides not to attend college.
James hasn't ruled out college and said during this past season that he has narrowed his choices to Duke, Florida, Louisville, North Carolina and Ohio State.
Lucas spoke at St. Vincent-St. Mary's team awards banquet last week in Akron, about 40 miles from Cleveland, and has become friendly with James, who attended several Cavs games last season.
The 6-foot-7 James has said he will return to high school for his senior season and has denied reports he will play in Europe while waiting to become eligible for the NBA.
James averaged 29 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 3.3 steals last season while leading the Fighting Irish to the state finals.
In March, James won The Associated Press' Ohio Mr. Basketball award for the second straight year, one month after becoming the first high school underclass basketball player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated under the heading: "The Chosen One" (pictured, above).
James also received several other national player of the year awards.
The workout with the Cavs wasn't the first time James has played against NBA players. Last summer, he was invited to Chicago by Michael Jordan and participated in workouts Jordan held while contemplating his comeback.
Before turning pro, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was invited by Lucas to work out with the Philadelphia 76ers. Lucas coached in Philadelphia from 1994-96.
The Cavs, who have had three straight 50-loss seasons, have the No. 6 pick in next month's draft. If James decides to turn pro next year, Cleveland would probably have to win the NBA lottery or make a trade to have any shot at him.
"We'd certainly love to get him," Cavs owner Gordon Gund said just after the season finished. "But I don't think we'd give away everything we have to get him, and that may be what it takes."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)