Ultimately, Lucas came to realize that he needed some answers. "I felt like everything around me was dying, everything was falling down," he says. A week after his suspension, he married his longtime sweetheart, Debbie Fozard, with whom he had a 2-year-old daughter, Tarvia. He then decided to spend the off-season in Durham with his parents, wife and daughter, away from the Bay Area (which he nevertheless still refers to as "heaven"). He went to his lawyers and said, "Anything, I'll do anything you want me to do to clear this thing up." Dell and Falk spoke to Dr. Stanford La-vine, the Washington Bullets' team physician, and he recommended Strange, who, in addition to practicing psychiatry, is a consultant to the Commonwealth Counseling Corporation a drug and alcohol rehabilitation service in Alexandria. Lucas entered a hospital in Fairfax, Va. under an assumed name and went through a battery of physical tests. Then he began once-a-week sessions with Strange.
As to Lucas' present condition, Strange has concluded, "[He] no longer manifests symptoms of depression. He has no psychiatric impairment. He is emotionally and physiologically fit to continue his profession."
Whether Lucas will be back in a professional basketball uniform next season is still uncertain. But he is back to being himself. "I look at it like this," Lucas says. "It's just an unfortunate accident that happened to a good guy. I'm not a bad guy. I'm nobody's problem child. Never have been, never will be."
Says Falk, "To negotiate with a team owner and convince him the John Lucas we're talking about is the Lucas of the first four years and not the fifth year, we've got to really substantiate what the problems were and why he no longer suffers from them."
Lucas and his attorneys believe they have that substantiation, and their Exhibit No. 1 is Strange's report. Lucas is willing that it be shown around, although, like many people, he's sensitive about public reaction to his visits to the psychiatrist.
After all, an athlete's world is supposed to revolve around broken bones, not broken psyches. "You have to realize how hard it was for me, how hard it still is, to open up my life to people," he says. "But I'm willing to do it. I've got to do it to show people what was wrong with me. I'll pay that price."
A good possibility is that Lucas will end up with Utah, where Nissalke has a hand in personnel decisions. "I'm a John Lucas fan," says Nissalke. "I wouldn't go so far as to say I'd bet my life on John Lucas. But I would say that I'd stake as much of my basketball career on him now as I did when I was back at Houston and picked him No. 1."
"You know," says Lucas, "I always said I'd like to do anything once in life just to try it. I wanted to be a pimp or a basketball player or a woman or whatever. Just to see what it felt like. But what I went through this year-that kind of person? No, thank you. Once was too much for that."