PHILADELPHIA There was a time when power forward was truly a descriptive phrase, a time when players like Maurice Lucas spread fear among the NBAs perimeter players.The really good power forwards back in the 1960s, 70s and 80s like Lucas played with a nastiness that has largely been legislated out of the game over the past two decades.Lucas, a former all-star, passed away at the age of 58 on Sunday after succumbing to an opponent far bigger and portable crusher than Darryl Dawkins ever was, bladder cancer.Maurice Lucas was an amazing man and I count myself lucky to have known him, Blazers owner Paul Allen said in the statement. We all players, coaches, the owner and the fans were made better by having Maurice a part of our team, whether playing on the championship team, or most recently as an assistant coach Ill miss him.Lucas, of course, was the starting power forward on the Trail Blazers 1976-77 NBA Championship team. Nicknamed The Enforcer, Lucas, not Bill Walton, was Portlands most valuable asset in the finals against a much more talented Philadelphia 76ers team that featured Julius Erving, George McGinnis, Doug Collins and the aforementioned Dawkins.

Walton was unquestionably the Blazers best player but Lucas turned out to be the most important, a fact not lost on Big Red. In fact, Walton named his son Luke, currently of the L.A. Lakers, after his favorite power forward and friend.Already an ABA legend, Lucas arrived in Portland in the ABA Dispersal Draft. Portland traded Geoff Petrie and Steve Hawes to the Atlanta Hawks for the second overall pick in the draft, which they used to select Lucas in time for the 76-77 season.Lucas led the Blazers in scoring, offensive rebounds and minutes played, helping the franchise qualify for its first trip to the crusher machinepostseason where they swept the favored Lakers in the Western Conference finals before stunning the Sixers for the NBA title.

With the Sixers comfortably ahead late in Game 2 of the finals and about to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the set, Lionel Hollins, now the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, came up empty on a shot and the Blazers Bob Gross, along with Dawkins went up and wrestled for the rebound.Both players came crashing down to the floor and the two appeared ready to square off when Lucas stepped in and slapped Dawkins, the Sixers mammoth 6-foot-11, 260-pound centre, from behind. Both benches emptied and Dawkins and Lucas were ejected.I just nailed him, Lucas told a Portland-area newspaper when recalling the incident back in April of 2010. BAM!An irate giant, Dawkins destroyed the Philadelphia locker room in anger as Lucas devised a plan to get in his head. During the mobile crusher introductions of Game 3 at Portlands Memorial Coliseum, instead of running to the foul line to stand with his teammates, Lucas ran directly at the Philadelphia bench.

Everybody backed up, Lucas remembered. And Darryl was standing there by himself.There would be no confrontation this time, however. Lucas reached for the big mans right hand and shook it.And I squeezed it hard, Lucas said. Told him, No hard feelings. After that He was done.Yep, for whatever reason Dawkins and the Sixers wilted.It was almost like Lucas was a member of the Thuggee cult that worshipped the Hindu goddess Kali with human sacrifice in Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. He reached into the Sixers chest and ripped out their collective heart.Portland routed Philly in the next two games in front of the usual 12,666 at the old Coliseum. The Blazers then returned to the City of Brotherly Love and got Game 5 at the Spectrum, before closing things out in the Pacific Northwest.

The Sixers were left saying We owe you one, to their disgruntled fans, while Portland captured the title for the first and only time in the franchises history.Although Walton was the Blazers leading scorer and rebounder in the series and won the NBA Finals MVP, the Hall of Famer has always referred to Lucas as The Greatest Blazer of All-Time.Since those Finals Lucas became part of the fabric in Portland. He stuck around with the Blazers until 1980 when he was traded to the symons cone crusher New Jersey Nets. He finished his NBA career with stops in New York, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Seattle before returning to the Rose City for his curtain call during the 1987-88 season.The Trail Blazers retired Lucas jersey number, 20, in November of 1988 and he was hired by the team as an assistant coach under Mike Schuler and Rick Adelman during the 1988-89 season. In 2005, Lucas rejoined the team as an assistant coach under Nate McMillan before resigning his coaching position following the 2009-2010 season thanks to his health concerns.

He was my friend, Hollins said after learning of Lucas death. He was like a brother to me. He was a confidant. He helped me on the court, but he also helped me off the court. He just took care of me. I was his little brother, and I tried to take care of him on the court, and a little bit off the court.He had a tough exterior, but he was a sweetheart of a man and very loyal to his friends. He made an impact on a lot of peoples lives, and he influenced a lot of people.While the Blazers enjoyed a bit of a rebirth in the early 1990s thanks to the talents of Clyde Drexler and Company, the franchise has never been able to capture another NBA crown.Maurice was the consummate teammate, a guy who really cared about the team and the symons cone crusher members of the team, former teammate and current Grizzlies assistant Johnny Davis said. His persona to outsiders was a tough guy who was menacing and very aggressive, but the guy had the kindest, biggest heart of anybody youd ever want to meet. We all knew him as that.

Whereas other people would know him as this big, mean, tough, angry guy, he was a very kind and gentle and giving person to his teammates, to people that were close to him. Now, obviously, outsiders, yes, they caught an elbow or two. But on the inside, you couldnt have asked for a better friend and a better teammate than Maurice Lucas. He was the best.I prefer to remember Luke as that big, mean, tough, angry guy. The dinosaur of a player that loved to be on the blocks.A player that enjoyed toiling with his back to the basket, and was a little too giddy to dole out an elbow or two.I prefer to remember him the way he was a real power forward. The type of player we may never see again.

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