Dr. J and Pistol Pete on the Same TeamWhen I interviewed Julius Erving, he told me that Pistol Pete Maravich had taught him the importance of playing one-on-one or two-on-two with your teammates after practice. Erving and Maravich were teammates on the Atlanta Hawks during the 1972 preseason before it was ruled that Erving must return to the ABA's Virginia Squires. I had read descriptions of how Erving mentored rookie George Gervin later in that season by working with him after practice but had never seen an account explaining that Maravich and Erving had done the same thing just months earlier. I wrote an article about this titled "A Little-Known Pairing of Top 50s" that appeared in the October 2004 issue of Basketball Digest. I recently saw a book that lifted some Erving quotes verbatim from that article without attribution*, so I thought that this would be a perfect time to share the complete story of Erving's brief time with the Hawks, exactly as I wrote it two years ago:
The ABA enjoyed a 79-76 edge in exhibition games versus the NBA, but two NBA wins should be marked with an asterisk: Julius Erving, the greatest player in ABA history, led the Atlanta Hawks to a pair of exhibition triumphs over ABA teams.
Wait a minute...Julius Erving was an Atlanta Hawk?
Yes, briefly. Erving signed with the Hawks after his fantastic 1971-72 rookie season (27.3 ppg, 15.7 rpg in the regular season; 33.3 ppg, 20.4 rpg in 11 playoff games) with the ABA's Virginia Squires. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks selected Erving in the 1972 draft (the NBA prohibited its teams from drafting underclassmen at the time) and the Squires insisted that Erving was still under contract with them. While an armada of attorneys attempted to reach an agreement among three teams in two leagues, Erving joined Pete Maravich and the Hawks as they prepared for the upcoming season.
Erving enjoyed his brief time with Atlanta: "It really was one of the joys of my life to play with Pete, to be in training camp with him. We used to stay after practice and play one-on-one. We would play for dinner after practice. I did the same thing with George Gervin once he became my teammate [in Virginia]--I pretty much learned that from Pete. If this guy is going to be your teammate, you really need to stay after practice and get to understand his game and know his likes and his dislikes--where he likes the ball and that kind of stuff. The best way to do that is to just play--go play each other one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three. Play away from the coaches, away from the whole team practicing in unison."
On September 23, 1972, Erving had 28 points and 18 rebounds in 42 minutes for Atlanta in a 112-99 win over the Kentucky Colonels in Frankfort, Ky. A week later in Raleigh, N.C., he scored 32 points--shooting 14 of 15 from the field--in a 120-106 win over the Carolina Cougars, who were paced by Joe Caldwell's 24 points. Erving says, "I remember those exhibition games. I would just grab a rebound, throw it out to Pete and get on the wing. Pete would always find you. He got his points, but he loved to pass the ball. He could hit you in full stride in a place where you could do something with the ball. That was a measure of his greatness."
The NBA fined Atlanta $25,000 per game for Erving's two Hawks appearances because Milwaukee owned his NBA rights--in a sense, the Hawks had "stolen" Erving from teams in both the ABA and NBA. A three-judge panel ruled that until the case was settled, Erving was contractually bound to the Squires. Erving returned to Virginia and led the ABA in scoring in 1972-73 (31.9 ppg). The following year, the cash-strapped Squires sold him to the New York Nets, leaving Hawks (and Squires) fans to wonder what might have been.
*--I have since received an apology from one of the authors of Maravich, Wayne Federman, who also assured me that the proper attribution will be added in subsequent editions of the book.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:57 PM