Elvin Hayes stopped talking about being traded tonight and instead concentrated on improving his basketball. The Bullets benefitted handsomely with their first road victory of the year.
Hayes, who thought his career in Washington was over Saturday night after the team lost to Houston, scored 21 points and had 20 rebounds to lead the Bullets over lethargic New Orleans, 106-97.
Before Washington took the floor, Hayes apologized to his teammates. He told them he had been "cheating on them. I hadn't been giving them the performance I should have."
He also said he had been "cheating the fans. I've been standing around and saying let someone else to it. I've come to realize I've got to play."
Then he went out and turned in his best game of the young season. He forced few shots, wasn't intimidated by Truck Robinson's muscling efforts and dominated the defensive backboards.
Toss in 12 second-half points by Phil Chenier, the other inconsistent Bullet, and then mix in 21 points by Bob Dandridge and 19 from Larry Wright and you have what coach Dick Motta called "our best performance by so far."
But the Bullets can't take all the credit for their third victory in seven games. New Orleans aided the Washington cause considerably with a horrible fourth-quarter display.
The Jazz led, 82-81, early in the period but once Washington crept in front, 93-87, with 7:15 left, the home town boys fell apart.
New Orleans missed its next seven shots and committed three turnovers. The Bullets retaliated with seven straight points for a comfortable 100-87 margin.
"It looked like we had played three nights in a row instead of the Bullets," said Pete Maravich, who had 26 points for the game, but only two in the final period.
Hayes did most of his damage in the first three quarters. He went to the bench in the last stanza with the Bullets ahead by five and then watched as Wright and Chenier combined for eight points against Maravich and Gail Goodrich to put away the Jazz.
Motta was particularly happy with the play of his shooting guards. "When they are in the game, they make Goodrich and Maravich work the whole floor and that gets them tired. I was really happy to see Phil get in the groove and start shooting like he is capable of doing.
"After losing three straight on the road, I didn't know if we could win one on the road or not,"
Although Robinson finished with 21 points and 24 rebounds, he had only eight points and 10 rebounds in the second half when Hayes guarded him tighter and made him force some shots.
"I'm not worrying about being traded," Hayes said, "If it happens, it happens, I can't think about it." He added that Robinson's string of early season statements about Hayes' selfishness didn't bother him.
"It's more like spilled milk," he said.
While his teammates hardly considered Hayes' postgame oration in the "Win ore for the Gipper" category, they admitted his talk was welcomed.
"It came at an appropriate time," said Wes Unseld, "It certainly didn't hurt."
Motta, who had chewed out Hayes after his three point performance against Houston, said that his star forward's display tonight was beautiful. "I was hoping he would react with a good game. And he did."
Hayes helped keep the Bullets close to the Jazz during a span when New Orleans was threatening to break things open.
The Jazz had a 10-point lead late in the third perood, thanks to some spectacular playing by Maravich, who brought the crowd of 26,474 - third largest in NBA history - to its feet with one superb drive-and-pass play.
But the Bullets began a rally early in the fourh period. Chenier, Hayes and Wright (twice) hit baskets before New Orleans could score its first points of the quarter to put Washington ahead and then the Bullets slowly drew away.