The Twitter jokes came immediately.
One person talked about Landen Lucas’ “damn fumble hands.” Another spoke about how Lucas could use the same extremities to fry bacon and eggs.
They weren’t the only ones disappointed when the Kansas center dropped a pass from Josh Jackson for what appeared to be a sure layup in the first half of Saturday’s 77-67 victory over Texas.
“It’s tough,” Lucas said after the game. “You’ve just got to go through it. Injuries are going to happen.”
Yes, Lucas would love to be able to catch the ball more cleanly. He’d love to have full range of motion in a right thumb that has been taped for the last six weeks after he injured it during KU’s road victory at Oklahoma on Jan. 10.
It’s just not possible right now. Playing through what he calls a slight sprain, Lucas remains on the court with a thumb that is braced with tape “about as sturdy as you can be while still being able to play.”
“Even if you do get hit, it doesn’t really strain the ligament. Hitting it doesn’t really hurt,” Lucas said. “It’s more like moving it awkwardly.”
There are still plenty of downsides. Lucas — always hesitant to make any excuses for his play — says he cannot palm the ball with his right hand. His range of motion is limited.
The presence of tape also serves as a de facto target for opposing players. At Baylor last Saturday, Lucas took his hardest hit since the injury, which ended up affecting his subsequent free throws. He even once talked to a trainer about seeing if there was any way to better hide which part of his body was being protected.
“It’s probably a little too late now (to hide),” Lucas said. “It’s just how it works, and you’ve just got to play through it. I think I would rather take the risk with it taped than have it not taped right now.”
So what’s the future outlook? Most likely the same as it’s been.
When asked, Lucas says it’s his goal to play without the tape in the NCAA Tournament. It’s just difficult to see how that might happen with so only three weeks between now and then.
“It’s just one of those things where really, without just time off, it doesn’t really get a lot better,” Lucas said. “You use your thumb so much.
“For now, we’re going to keep it taped up. Hopefully, I can get the tape off, because like I said, it keeps it safe, but it can be restrictive at times.”
Lucas managed eight points and eight rebounds Saturday, but for the second straight game, he was overshadowed by another KU big man. This time it was Dwight Coleby, who tied his career-high with 12 points in 13 minutes.
The senior Lucas says that’s fine. The most important games are coming up, so it’s great for other guys to get confidence. They might be needed.
And part of Coleby’s turnaround could be the recent removal of knee support he’s worn since ACL surgery last year.
“I know how it is when you’ve got your mind on some kind of brace or something,” Lucas said. “You might be all right, but you start overthinking things. He’s not doing that any more.”
Lucas only has a few games left in his own college career. And while his hope is to get healthy, the alternative is to keep grinding.
“My whole thing is, while I do have it taped up, just trying do as much as I can, play with it as best as I can,” Lucas said. “Hopefully when it comes off, I can just have it strong again and feeling back to where it was.”