Knicks, Hawks hit by new NBA leader

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June 06 1975

San Francisco -- Newly appointed NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien has established himself as a hardline administrator by punishing the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks for their attempts to land a pair of ABA superstars.

In only his fifth day on the job Thursday, the former head of the Democratic Party fined the Hawks $400,000 for illegally signing Julius Erving three years ago and then declined to permit the Knicks to sign 6-foot-8 George McGinnis, who had been drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers but signed a reported $2 million contract with New York.

He also made the Knicks forfeit next year's first-draft choice as punishment.

In the Erving case, an NBA spokesman said the Hawks would have to pay $250,000 to the league and $150,000 to the Milwaukee Bucks, who own the draft rights to the 6-7 Erving, considered possibly the top forward in basketball.

Erving has been playing under a long-term contract with the ABA's New York Nets. The Bucks will receive Atlanta's two second-round choices in the 1976 draft.

O'Brien said of the McGinnis descision that under NBA bylaws, it was the only decision he could make.

"If violations of the rules were permitted," said O'Brien, "then it would be the same as if there were no rules at all. This would, of course, threaten the structure and very existence of the league."

The huge fine against Atlanta might threaten the very existence of the Hawks, although the franchise in the process of being sold to a new owner.

As outgoing President John Wilcox remarked Thursday upon being told he must pay the $400,00 immediately: "I didn't bring my checkbook."

It still is not clear whether the prospective new owners of the Hawks, the family of Simon Selig Jr., will be liable for payment.

"As of this moment, we haven't had a chance to discuss it with our attorneys," said Selig in Atlanta. "I'm not in a position really to make any comment."

McGinnis starred for the Indiana Pacers for the past four seasons. New York did not have the draft rights to him because he left the University of Indian after his sophomore year to play in the ANA. The Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA drafted him two years ago when his class was graduated.

McGinnis has said he wants to play in the NBA for New York but not for Philadelphia. He is expected now to take his case to the courts.

Knicks President Michael Burke said he was "surprised and disappointed" by O'Brien's ruling. He said he "felt the action we took was proper ... and in the interests of the club and the NBA."

O'Brien did give New York a slight break. He said the Knicks could trade or make other arrangements for a first-round choice but they would not have their own.

Source: United Press International,