NBA / D-League All-Star Weekend is full of festivities and competitions featuring some of basketball's biggest and most talented names. The weekend is undoubtedly centered around celebrating the great success of those top performers in both leagues.
But with all sorts of stars all present in one designated area, the next few days will also prove to be an opportunity for those to give back while recognizing worthy causes. Seeing as how the weekend's festivities were being held in the city he now calls home, NBA legend/coach John Lucas kicked things off by doing just that.
Hosting the first annual John Lucas Celebrity Bowling Challenge, Lucas and his family set out to raise awareness for their foundation, which aims to aid those youngsters who are forced to grow up without a mentor, proper role models, or leadership.
Of course, the family full of basketball roots is also full of people who hold the NBA D-League in ever so high regard. As part of his emergence as a training guru in Houston, the former player/coach continues to host current and/or aspiring NBADL athletes for workouts in hopes of helping them propel to the next level. Most recently, Lucas was working with rookie Scott Machado between his release from the Rockets and his signing with the RGV Vipers in the minors.
Lucas' respect for the D-League has seemed to rub off on his sons as well. In addition to bouncing overseas, John Lucas III starred for two different NBADL teams before eventually finding success in the NBA.
"He's having fun [with Toronto], and he's just taking advantage of opportunities now," said the Raptor guard's brother, Jai. "Last year was the beginning of him showing people he could really play when Derrick Rose was out in Chicago. John is used to adjusting through situations like that."
The older Lucas brother's blueprint for success (complete with stints in the D-League and all) is one that Jai Lucas wouldn't mind mirroring if he meant he also soon realizes similar success. The young brother said, "When you see someone do it before you, and that someone is a guy you're close to, it gives you that extra confidence. It can be done. I saw how hard he worked to do it."
After playing overseas last season, Jai Lucas has been clawing his way through in an attempt to find a home in the D-League to call his own. Having split time with the Idaho Stampede and Sioux Falls Skyforce thus far, he owns averages of 7.1 points and 2.3 steals in 20 minutes per game through 16 contests. Currently a free agent, Lucas is looking for his next gig while remaining optimistic that the NBADL is the place to be with regard to ultimately getting noticed.
The younger Lucas brother said, "My first job last year was overseas, but now I'm playing in the D-League. It's a place where you can weigh yourself, see where you are against the competition, and figure out what you need to do to get better."
In the meantime, the young gun is staying in shape as he trains and helps out (who else?) his dad. "The foundation is something my dad is really passionate about," he said. "I'm just happy now that he's taken a step back from basketball, he has more time to really bring this into the light. We train players from all areas of basketball, and work with an array of different age groups."
The Lucas family may preach and teach basketball as a way to put a positive spin on the lives of those less fortunate youngsters, but there's no denying that the entire family believes the D-League is a legitimate bridge for those who have that special type of talent. After watching his dad mentor a bevy of past NBADL athletes, and seeing his brother also excel on such a stage, perhaps Jai Lucas will be next in line to truly strut his stuff, given the opportunity.
In addition to the Lucas family, NBADL alum Mike James came out to show support at the event, as did Cavaliers' forward Tristan Thompson and past NBA veterans like Cliff Robinson, Charles Smith, and Fred Jones.