Maurice Lucas, Bruising Forward for Trail Blazers, Dies at 58

Maurice Lucas, the bruising All-Star forward who helped take the Portland Trail Blazers to their only N.B.A. championship, died Sunday. He was 58.

His death was announced by the team. Lucas, an assistant coach for the Blazers since 2005, had surgery for bladder cancer in spring 2009 but was hospitalized in the fall for a recurrence of cancer.

Lucas was a rugged defender and an outstanding rebounder, capable of a sturdy pick and a timely basket on offense. Possessing a glare that presumably intimidated many an opposing player, he became the prototype power forward when he emerged as a star for the Trail Blazers in the late 1970s.

“There’s nobody can contest him inside,” Bill Cartwright said when he played center alongside Lucas on the Knicks in the early 1980s. “Anybody tries, they’re going to be in a lot of trouble.”

In his rookie season in the National Basketball Association, Lucas teamed with center Bill Walton on the Blazers team that defeated the Philadelphia 76ers for the 1977 league championship. Lucas averaged 20.2 points a game during the regular season, then played a major role when the Blazers scored four straight victories over Philadelphia after losing the first two games of the finals.

The Blazers took charge after a long-remembered melee in Philadelphia near the end of Game 2. Darryl Dawkins, the 6-foot-11, 250-pound center for the 76ers, tangled with Trail Blazers forward Bob Gross after they went for a rebound. Lucas, 6-9 and 220 pounds or so, came to the aid of his teammate, punching Dawkins in the back of the head as coaches, bench players and fans streamed onto the court.

Both Lucas and Dawkins were ejected, but the Trail Blazers had shown their toughness. Lucas scored 27 points in the next game, and the Blazers were on their way to the championship.

Mike Dunleavy Sr., now the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers and a member of that 76ers team, referred to Lucas as Bogie when both were playing. As Dunleavy told The Los Angeles Times in 1985, “Maurice treats all of us like Bogart treated his women — with the back of his hand.”

Lucas, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, starred at Marquette University, joining with Bo Ellis in taking the team to the 1974 N.C.A.A. tournament championship game. Marquette lost in the final to North Carolina State, led by David Thompson. Lucas joined the American Basketball Association after his junior season and played for the Spirits of St. Louis and the Kentucky Colonels.

After two seasons in the A.B.A., Lucas joined the Trail Blazers in August 1976 when the league was merged into the N.B.A. Lucas was voted to the All-Star Game in each of his three full seasons with the Blazers and was named an all-N.B.A. defensive player twice with Portland.

But the Blazers never made it back to the league finals with Lucas, and they traded him to the Nets in February 1980.

The Nets sent Lucas to the Knicks in October 1981. He played one season for them, spent three seasons with the Phoenix Suns, where he gained a fourth All-Star selection, then finished his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Seattle SuperSonics and a second stint with the Trail Blazers.

He averaged 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds for his 12 N.B.A. seasons.

After retiring as a player and serving in his first stint as a Blazer assistant coach, in 1988-89, Lucas owned a sports and event marketing company.

Lucas is survived by his second wife, Pamela; a daughter, Kristin; and two sons, Maurice Jr. and David.

Lucas took pride in his icy on-court visage, but as the years went by, he bristled at his tough-guy image.

“I played very hard and very physical, but I thought I also played pretty smart because I studied my opponents rabidly,” he told The New York Times in 2004. “So I knew their tendencies and things I could take away from them on defense.”

As for his fight with Dawkins: “More than anything else in my career, I’ve been reminded of that incident and reminded of the fact that I was a real physical player. I’m not reminded of the fact that I was the leading scorer on those teams that I played on. But the old saying goes, ‘As long as they remember you, you can’t be mad.’ ”

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