Houston Rocket guard John Lucas, suspended earlier this season because of drug use, won reinstatement to the National Basketball Assn. on Tuesday after participating in a drug rehabilitation program.
"I'm just grateful for the opportunity," Lucas said. "This is it. I have an illness and a disease that will be with me the rest of my life."
Lucas was waived by the Rockets on Dec. 8 after failing a drug test. His contract became void when a urinalysis test for cocaine was positive. He had been averaging 15.3 points and 9.1 assists with the Rockets.
Lucas, 31, in his ninth year in the league, spent 40 days in a California drug rehabilitation program and has been taking part in Rocket home practices since Jan. 22. The latest episode was his third with drugs.
Houston General Manager Ray Patterson said the team's new contract with Lucas, which runs through the end of the 1986-87 season, includes a provision that one-third of his salary is deferred until three years after the conclusion of his career.
If his fails drug tests, that salary will be given to a drug education program.
"Three years after he's through playing, he's got to be a cured and healthy person or some other people are going to be getting money that John's earned," Coach Bill Fitch said.
Fitch had said previously that he would not accept Lucas back to the Rocket squad because of the player's drug problem.