Wayne Embry Rumors
Colangelo leaned on one of his mentors, Pete Newell, a legendary coach and basketball luminary. Newell visited Phoenix and Colangelo presented his concerns and general goals the afternoon prior to a Suns game, and the conversation continued at the arena and over a glass of wine following the game. The next morning, Newell delivered a six-page outline on the various concepts and ideas laid out over the course of the previous day. Soon after, in the early spring, Colangelo’s committee, which included heavy hitters such as Jerry West, Wayne Embry, Jack Ramsay and Rod Thorn, in addition to a handful of active coaches and general managers, convened at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. The committee plowed through the proposals, which included requiring teams to bring the ball over half court in eight seconds rather than 10. (Colangelo had suggested seven seconds.) The NBA’s illegal defense rule, which had existed in one form or another to prohibit zone defenses since the league’s earliest days, was scrapped. Instead, the committee proposed the defensive three-second rule, preventing defenders from loitering in the paint but allowing them to defend an area rather than an opponent elsewhere on the court.
Wayne Embry remembers like it happened yesterday. Now 80 years old and a consultant for the Toronto Raptors, Embry recalled how, when he was the general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks in the early ’70s, he lobbied the team’s hierarchy to draft an insanely athletic player from the East Coast.That was Julius Erving, aka Dr. J. If not for some legal issues and some behind-the-scenes shenanigans, Erving would have joined the Bucks and, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, formed perhaps the greatest triumvirate of players ever assembled.
“Now fast forward, in 1972, I’m the general manager of the Bucks and we had two draft picks that year. So I told ownership that I was going to draft – I forget the player we drafted (Russell Lee of Marshall with the sixth overall selection) — but, with the second pick in the first round, I said I would like to draft Julius Erving. I told them he’s playing in the ABA (with the Virginia Squires) and he’s going to be a great player. “They didn’t know who he was. They had never heard of him. They said, ‘Are you sure want to waste a draft pick on him?’ And, again, I told him he is playing in the ABA; that’s when the ABA just started out, and that I think we just ought to take a chance and draft him because we don’t know if the ABA is going to last.
“Well, I sat there and sat there and sat there and eventually I saw a person come out of his office and head down the hallway the other way. Well, it was Pat Williams of Philadelphia 76ers. And so I go in to talk with Irwin and he said, ‘Wayne, we just signed with Philadelphia.’ So Doc never came to Milwaukee but we did get a second round pick from Atlanta and with that pick we signed Alex English, yet another hall of famer. “From what I understand, the reason why he didn’t want to come to Milwaukee was because he didn’t want to be the third wheel behind Oscar (Robertson) and Abdul-Jabbar. That’s what he said later on. He wanted to be his own man and have his own team. We also had (Bob) Dandridge on our team and he was a very good player, too. (a five-time All-Star).
NBA.com: What do you remember about Jerry Krause? Wayne Embry: He was a hard worker. Whether it be his work in the NBA or his work in baseball. Very much attended to detail, too. He was, I would think for his time, innovative in his approach, looking for things other people may not have thought to look for. Players’ extended family, that sort of thing. He was really dedicated to what he did.
NBA.com: That’s right. In January 1973, a house that Abdul-Jabbar owned in D.C. was targeted in a home invasion. [Terrorists murdered several people in an attack on the player’s spiritual teacher Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, a rival of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. Abdul-Jabbar was not present at the time.] WE: That took Washington out, so it got down to the Lakers or the Knicks. We did everything we could do to talk him out of wanting to be traded. But he said, “Nope. If you don’t, I’ll become a free agent or I’ll sign with the ABA.” Of course we didn’t want that to happen. So we decided to keep it quiet. “Let’s not go public until we have a deal.”