"I was criticized for everything I did when I came into the league," Maravich says. "I believe if people keep criticizing enough, you'll finally do something that'll justify their criticism. I admit I made mistakes, but the mistakes were blown out of proportion because that's what everyone was looking for. They kept harping, 'Why do you dribble into traffic?' I enjoy going into traffic; that's my game. I can create that way. That's what me and a lot of young guys are into—revolutionizing basketball. The two-handed set shot used to be a big thing, but nobody's seen anyone take one in five years. We're working on things like passing and dribbling now. Take the chest pass. Five years from now you may never see another one of them."
While Maravich is off trying to foment revolutions, Hudson remains the quiet purist, a man so well versed in his art that before he returns to the floor after releasing an errant jumper he can tell why the shot failed to go in. While praising his defense, many pros consider his shooting technique the best there is. When he jumps, his body goes straight up with none of the sideward drift that throws lesser shooters off. His right elbow is tucked close to his side and the ball rests high on his fingertips. Over the last five seasons only five NBA players have averaged more than 20 points every year. Hudson is one of them; West, John Havlicek, Dave Bing and Elvin Hayes are the others and none have a shooting percentage to match Lou's .491 for his seven seasons. Yet he is a star without cachet, a man admired within his profession but rarely noticed outside it.
"I've always played with guards who controlled the ball," he says. " Archie Clark and I were together at Minnesota. When I came with the Hawks we had Lenny Wilkens and later Mahdi Abdul-Rahman and now Pete. All you can do is try to get open because that's the only way they'll notice you and throw you the ball, or at least you hope they do.
"I didn't intend to become a player like I am. I always wanted to be like Elgin Baylor. When I came to the Hawks, I tried his stuff. I'd shake my head one way and go the other, I'd shoot 15-foot hooks, sometimes I'd give a double pump on my shot. Richie Guerin was the coach then. He told me to cut it out, that that stuff was for the playground."
There is no flamboyance left in Hudson's game, but there is a lot of it in his home arena. The Hawks play in the spacious, year-old Omni in front of "crowds" that are scarcely omnipresent; they usually fill less than half the 16,818 seats. Over the last five years the Hawks' owners have tried five different general managers in the hope of getting reluctant Georgians, who stay home in the hope that Tuesday night football might miraculously appear on the tube, out to watch basketball. The latest candidate is 33-year-old Pat Williams, a promotional wizard fresh from crowd-building stints in Philadelphia and Chicago where he staged such halftime acts as Victor the Wrestling Bear and Little Arlene.
Williams, a mild-mannered, bespectacled, churchgoing sort, remembers Arlene with particular fondness because she was recommended to him in Philly by a player he had farmed out to Scranton of the Eastern League. Arlene, who weighed just 105 pounds, challenged five grown men to an eating contest and won by gobbling 77 hot dogs, 21 medium pizzas and 19 Cokes during a 76ers' game. She then told the public-address announcer to inform the audience that she would take on any five fans in a postgame oyster-eating bash at Bookbinders restaurant. Hoping to come up with another red-hot attraction, Williams called a meeting of the Hawks and asked for their ideas. The only one he received came from Maravich, who allowed as how he thought a lot of folks would show up if Williams screened Deep Throat every halftime.
Thrown back on his own resources, Williams staged a more mundane affair last week called Trick or Treat Night. Children in costume were allowed in free (when accompanied by a paying adult, to be sure) and given a treat. Public Address Announcer Pat Hogan appeared in a costume that made him look like a cross between Mae West and Mother Courage. Williams, disguised as Richard Nixon, threw up the opening pumpkin. The kids paraded at halftime for the judging of the best costumes, a contest won by Little Bo-Peep, a girl robot wearing what looked like a TV set over her head and a very small boy named Ronald Haygood who came as either Emmett Kelly or a drunken bum. When asked who he was supposed to be, Ronald replied, "I don't know. My daddy didn't tell me."
The evening's other activities included a 122-101 Hawks' win over Phoenix in which Maravich got 31 points and Hudson 20. Early in the second quarter Pete and Lou scored a pair of archetypal baskets within 45 seconds of one another. First Maravich squared off against his man 22 feet from the basket. Dribbling the ball far out in front of him, he invited Clem Haskins to attempt a steal. When Haskins leaned down to reach for the ball, Maravich changed hands by bouncing the ball between his legs, hopped to his right and shot. As the ball nestled in the basket, Haskins was still groping at the floor like a man trying to pick up loose change.
Hudson then increased the Hawk lead to 16 points from almost the same spot. Starting at a point on the floor opposite where teammate Steve Bracey stood patiently dribbling, Hudson first jabbed quickly toward the top of the key and then swooped low along the baseline, disappearing from Bracey's view behind a crowd beneath the basket. An instant later he popped clear on Bracey's side of the floor, took a pass and, turning and firing in one motion, swished his shot.
Later in the week at Houston both Hudson, who finished with 21 points, and Maravich were suffering through dismal shooting nights as the Hawks entered the final period trailing by eight points. Then with three minutes remaining Pete began the most extraordinary offensive burst of a young season. He hit a layup and a foul shot for a three-point play, a 29-foot jumper, a 21-footer falling down, a 23-footer on an out-of-bounds play, a breakaway layup off a steal and a 20-foot jumper from the left baseline. With 0:46 to go, Rocket Mike Newlin took Maravich's head fake and left his feet. Pete ducked under Newlin, waited until he soared past to his right and then, carefully fingering the ball, tossed in a 17-footer to make the score 122-121 Hawks. Gilliam got the final three points to sew up a 125-123 victory. In the fourth quarter Maravich scored 17 points, hit eight of eight field-goal attempts and poured in 15 straight points for his team in 2:15. He ended the game with 30 points.