George McGinnis isn't complicated. But it was complicated for the Indiana Pacers to ink him to a new two-year contract.
First of all, Big George signed a three-year contract after his sophomore year at the University of Indiana. Next, mid-year through his second season with the Pacers, he was given a raise of $127,000.
The catch was the fact the Pacers knew he was becoming a superstar and rather than entertaining thoughts of having to compete with NBA clubs for his services, they renegotiated his contract. At the same time, the Pacers put in his new contract a 90-day no option clause to take place after his third year from May 1st to August 1st.
During that time, McGinnis could negotiate with any NBA club of his choice and the Pacers would have to match or better the new contract. It was during this period that George replaced his former agent Gary Donna for Irwin Weiner.
Weiner and McGinnis just about drove the NBA Philadelphia 76ers (who had his NBA rights) up the wall with demands. The 76ers later gave up his rights to the New York Knicks for future considerations. But during the time Weiner and McGinnis were making demands with the 76ers, the Pacers claimed the 90-day no option clause elapsed.
Big George, a muscular and agile 6-8 235 pound forward, was quoted as saying, "New York is a better place to boogie." The Knicks wanted him to give them much-needed help on the boards following the retirement of Dave DeBusschere (New York Nets' GM) and the debilitating knee injuries of Willis Reed.
The tug-o-war then began. The Pacers went to court in an effort to prevent McGinnis from negotiating with the Knicks. The ABA team obtained temporary restraining orders against McGinnis, Donna, Weiner, the Knicks, and the 76ers. The Pacers argued that since the Aug. 1st deadline had expired, the Pacers had him for an option year.
Pacer coach Bobby "Slick" Leonard was elated when McGinnis signed and halted the behind the scenes hassling. "I'm glad it's over," offered Leonard. "It was a tough go and he's got a tough guy handling him, too. It would have been tough to take a player of that stature away from us at this time."
Slick was right. The Pacers had gone through changes in personnel to try to convince George to sign and also, build for the future. It's no secret that McGinnis was disturbed over some of the veterans not putting out during the season last year.
Slick traded away Freddie Lewis and Mel Daniels to Memphis for cash and Charles 'Razor' Edge. He also traded away Don Freeman to San Antonio. "I think the moves will be good for all people involved," Bobby explained. "It was a time to rebuild. I believe our club had run the gamut."
"The move will rekindle zest for both Mel and Freddie. They're going to be starting all over again. When I came to this club (six years ago), it was down a bit. I hope I had something to do with building it into a winner."
By signing Bill Knight (6-6 1/2 forward from Pittsburgh), Len Elmore (6-9 center from Maryland) and Bruce King (6-2 guard from Pan American), the Pacers have inked three players who were each rated among the top two or three at their position in this year's draft.
"I'm really looking forward to the coming season," said Slick. "This is the first time in about three years that I've been this excited about the start of a basketball season.
"It's really going to be a challenge for us. I want to get back to teaching basketball again. We're going to have a challenge to stay around .500 this season. You'll never know, but I thought that this town was ready for a change, too."
Leonard was happy about the ABA's situation, too. "Two months ago, I didn't know where the league stood," said Bobby. "Now, I feel our league is more solid than it has been in the last three years. We didn't get the merger that we wanted.
"We could've backed off, but it appears that we're going to continue the fight. I don't see how they can overlook a merger next time. We're not going to lay down and die. That's for sure.
"Listen, getting San Diego in the Sports Arena, getting Carl Scheer, Larry Brown and Doug Moe at Denver, Memphis with Mike Storen and Joe Mullaney and Virginia, Utah and St. Louis with new owners -- our league looks more solid all around than before."
Note: DAN PATTISON was an ABA columnist for Basketball Weekly, The Sporting News, and The Deseret News. Dan was also the vice-president of the ABA Sports Writer's Association for two years.
Dan passed away in June 2001 after a brave battle with bone marrow cancer. He will always be remembered for his longtime support of his "magnificent obsession": the ABA.