John Lucas Has Become Sports Whisperer to Stars, Projects Alike
By Jon Wertheim
It would be a perfect setting for a basketball-based reality show, one that brings together a deliberately diverse assortment of players: different ages, different genders, different levels of talent, different strengths and -- weaknesses -- both physical and psychic. Sharing little besides a passion for basketball, 22 players file onto the court of the Met Athletic Club in downtown Houston at 8:30 on a June morning. The bankers and lawyers pushing around weights barely look over; same for the well-preserved housewives on the treadmill. They're used to it by now.
The group of ballers includes Tristan Thompson, fresh out of the University of Texas, a lithe forward who was the fourth pick in the 2011 NBA draft. It also includes Lulu McKinney, a sophomore point guard on the girls' team at Houston's Bellaire High. And Thaddeus Young, a starting small forward for the 76ers. There was a rumor that Clippers center Blake Griffin was going to show up, as he has in previous years, but he delayed his pilgrimage to Houston until later in the summer.
They're all here for different reasons, but ultimately they're all here for the same reason: to spend some time in the orbit of John Lucas, the Sports Whisperer. For years Lucas was best known to the public for his drug treatment work with athletes, but in the sports underground he's become known for applying defib paddles to moribund careers -- for taking broken athletes and making them whole.
At nine sharp Lucas arrives. He walks in with casual grace, wearing a golf shirt, shorts and a generous smile. ''Well,'' he says with a raspy I-eat-gravel-for-breakfast voice and a high-pitched cackle that innumerable pro athletes can mimic with precision. A pause for effect. ''Let's get to work.''
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