SI Vault
 
POWER GAME IN THE CITY
Alfred Wright
November 17, 1969
To win a basketball game, you have to get the ball occasionally. Now that Jerry Lucas has joined the San Francisco front line, the team will get the ball on rebounds more than any other in the NBA, as Lucas and Nate Thurmond demonstrated last week against Cincinnati. That advantage is inspiring hopes of a title
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 17, 1969

Power Game In The City

To win a basketball game, you have to get the ball occasionally. Now that Jerry Lucas has joined the San Francisco front line, the team will get the ball on rebounds more than any other in the NBA, as Lucas and Nate Thurmond demonstrated last week against Cincinnati. That advantage is inspiring hopes of a title

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

In the airports, in the coffee shops, on the planes and in the drafty dressing rooms of the arenas, Luke and his new teammates found time to muse on how their new relationship was developing. Luke is nothing if not intelligent. A Phi Beta Kappa at Ohio State in 1962, he has spent his leisure time away from the courts, building that food business, for which he recently turned down an offer of $1.5 million. There is also the LTN Enterprises, a construction firm just getting under way.

Sitting in a Baltimore coffee shop just before the first road game, Luke talked about his new life. He is a handsome man with a large, open face and the sleepy-looking hoods of his eyelids are a sharp contrast to the alert gray eyes beneath. "I feel differently than I have ever felt professionally," he was saying. "I had wanted to come to San Francisco, not just because it was a nice place to live; I had always heard the Warriors were a happy club without a lot of hang-ups, that they got along well together and that Franklin Mieuli was a fair and considerate owner.

"This team has the potential to do real well," he went on, "and I think most of us feel we can go all the way if we play the way we can and stay healthy and get the breaks. This is the first time I ever played with a team with a real big, dominating center. There isn't a better man in the league than Nate, and that puts more pressure on you to do the things you can do best. It gives you more confidence.

"Another thing I hope I can contribute," Luke added, "is a voice in the huddle, a voice in the locker room—encouraging the other players. We're a young team, and I guess that except for Al Attles, our assistant coach who also fills in at guard, I'm about the oldest guy. I'll be 30 in March. So I ought to be able to help some of the younger players to think positively. It's really very exciting. It's given me a new lease on life, and I feel like a rookie again."

While he was talking, Luke was toying with his right hand, moving it up and down, pressing it back against his forearm. Though he had said nothing about it at the time, he had taken a crack on it in the Cincinnati game a couple of nights earlier and it was stiffening up. That night he could scarcely hold the ball, and shooting was impossible. He got only one field goal against Baltimore as the Bullets ran the Warriors ragged, winning by 19 points.

Depression descended. "We're a moving team," said Coach Lee. "We can get the ball, but if we don't move, we can't score. We were awful." Luke went to the hospital for X rays, which were negative, and the team moved on to Cincinnati, where Luke took heat on his arm and played with it bandaged. The Warriors moved that night, and it was a laugher—they beat the Royals by 21 points, and Luke's mending arm provided 19.

The next night in Boston was the opposite—a cliffhanger that was settled in the last few seconds by Luke's driving layup, giving him a total of 21. "We needed that game," everyone was saying afterward. "We came from 15 points behind, and it proved to us we can win the tough ones."

This is a point that worries everyone, Owner Mieuli especially. "Ever since we lost Rick Barry it's been tough for us," he says, "but now with Lucas I think maybe we have a winner. What worries me is that San Francisco teams aren't winners. I think a lot has to do with our way of life. It's too easy. We won't work as hard as people from those other cities where life is tough, cities like Green Bay and Cleveland. But beating Boston tonight on their own court may have proved something. Maybe it showed we are tough. Not just good enough to win but tough enough to win."

1 2