On the first visit to the USAir Arena (then the Capital Centre) since his retirement in 1984, former Washington Bullets forward Elvin Hayes was asked to recall his greatest memory.
"We were playing against Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference championship, and there was one play just before the half when Doug Collins was making a pass to George McGinnis," said Hayes, standing under the basket where the play unfolded. "I stole the basketball, went down and dunked the ball and came back up court with my hands raised above my head.
"Everybody in the arena was hollering 'E, E.' That is my favorite moment in basketball. That one moment. I wish I could have frozen that moment."
During a 16-year career, he spent nine seasons in a Bullets uniform as one of the best power forwards in the history of the game. And with this being the final year of the Bullets at the USAir Arena before they move to a new D.C. arena, Hayes returned from his home in Texas to see the place where he played the bulk of his career one last time and where he helped the Bullets to the 1978 NBA title. A funny thing happened to Hayes as he drove to the arena.
"I got lost," he said. "But to see this place one last time We opened this building when we moved from Baltimore. To not see a game in it before it closed, I just couldn't stay away."
Although Hayes finished his career with the Houston Rockets, he identifies most with the Bullets. He still is the franchise leader in points (15,551) and blocks (1,558).
"When I went into the Hall of Fame, I went in as a Washington Bullet," Hayes said. "I played at Houston. But when someone asks me, I tell them I played with the Washington Bullets. No matter what they change the name to, people will always recognize this team as the Bullets."
In the first month of the season, the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers appear to be the most disappointing teams.
For the Knicks, Sunday's loss to the SuperSonics is tolerable. But so far this season the Knicks have dropped two games to the Philadelphia 76ers and have not shown any indication that the off-season moves (Larry Johnson, Allan Houston, Chris Childs) will lead them to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Houston (.360 shooting percentage) and Johnson (4.5 rebounds per game) have been major disappointments, with Johnson often on the bench at the end of games watching rookie John Wallace.
"With the veterans we've got on this team, we've got to play with a lot more fire," Childs said. "Things don't go our way, we've got our heads down. That's when the veteran leadership and the desire that this team has had over the years is supposed to take over, and that hasn't happened yet."
Neither has it happened in Indiana, where the Pacers were 3-8 before last night's rout of the Sacramento Kings. On Saturday at home against the Orlando Magic, which was missing Penny Hardaway and Dennis Scott the Pacers allowed only 76 points -- and still lost.
"Our team confidence is at an all-time low and we really need to get hold of ourselves, from Player 1 to Player 12," guard Reggie Miller said.
Though the Pacers miss the presence of center Rik Smits (foot surgery), the lack of leadership appears to be the problem. For all his past playoff shooting heroics Miller, has never led or motivated a team like Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley does.
"You have to have people making demands in there," Pacers coach Larry Brown said. "I think we have guys who can. We have enough people who have been there before that, as a group, can start making demands and setting the tone."
Around the league
Freak injuries of the week: Boston Celtics center Pervis Ellison, while helping teammate Greg Minor move a table, lost his grip and dropped the table on his big right toe. The fractured toe will sideline Ellison between eight and 12 weeks. Also, the Chicago Bulls lost center Luc Longley for at least eight weeks after he dislocated his left shoulder while body surfing in the NTC Pacific Ocean on Sunday while the team was in Los Angeles to play the Clippers.
Coaching the Denver Nuggets may be hazardous to your health. The latest to discover it was Bernie Bickerstaff, who resigned as coach after the Nuggets shot .274 and scored 65 points in a loss last Saturday to Portland. Then on Wednesday, Dick Motta, in his second game, watched his team blow a 34-point halftime lead and lose to the Utah Jazz.
With the tallest starting frontcourt in the NBA -- Stoyko Vrankovic (7-2), Kevin Garnett (6-11) and Tom Gugliotta (6-10) -- the Minnesota Timberwolves have still been out-rebounded in nine of their 13 games.
Quote of the week
From Orlando Magic guard Gerald Wilkins, when asked for a heartfelt response to what he was thankful for on Thanksgiving:
"I'm thankful for my shoes. I didn't used to have nice shoes like this."
Jerry Bembry can be reached via E-mail at Jeryol.com.
Pub Date: 11/29/96