Because of a typographical error, K.C. Jones was misquoted in the This Morning column in some editions of yesterday's Washington Post. The correct quote is: "When you're as close to a person as I was to E (Elvin Hayes), you know whether he's devious or not. And that is not the case with E . . ."
Elvin Hayes is not likely to lead the NBA in scoring this season. Or rebounding. Or assists. Once again however, he is odds on to lead the sporting world in contradictions. The Big E is afflicted with The Big I - insecurity - and this is the season he and the Bullets either come to terms with one another or part company.
Hayes is an immense talent, the very embodiment of a power forward, a fellow one is not embarrassed to mention in the same breath as Abdul-Jabbar and Chamberlain, capable in fact of whipping entire teams, as he did Lew CLA that memorable night in the Astrodome a decade ago.
Having said that, anyone driving a mythical lane toward logic involving Hayes and the Bullets gets tied up by irony and ifs. There are few players more willing to give time to the community than Hayes, and yet he often is most uncharitable on the court. A harsh needler at times. Hayes sometimes growls at even the mildest public criticism. For all his skill, he is not the Bullet you want with the ball in the final seconds with the game in doubt.
His teammates and his fans are not quite sure which of the many Es will be on display each game. Will it be the E that carried the Bullets much of the regular season last year or the E that wilted at times in the playoffs against the Houston prodigy, Moses Malone?
Will it be E, as in WE, or E, as in Me?
"If he could just admit his faults sometimes," said his former coach, K.C. Jones. "If he could just be consistent with an honest effort. That's the only thing that holds him back.
"When you're as close to a person as I was to E, you don't know whether he's devious or not. And that is not the case with E. He's not really that way. He wants to be part of a championship team.
"But it's difficult for him to admit what he would like to admit. But what any championship needs is a four-for-one attitude, four guys sacrificing so one can do what has to be done, everyone scrapping and hustling.
"Really, it's up to E himself."
Indeed, the Bullets have gone about as far as they can toward building a team around Hayes. Owner Abe Pollin reached deep into his pocket for the funds to bring in the guard so many thought so necessary, Dave Bing.
When the guard positions seemed secure, although with others instead of Bing, Pollin paid the going rate for splendid small forwards, $500,000, and Bobby Dandridge arrived. Add depth and youth in the form of Larry Wright, Mitch Kupchak and Greg Ballard and the Bullets have as much talent as any team in the NBA.
Like Chamberlain, perhaps we expect too much of Hayes. Perhaps Hayes expects too much of himself. Having often sat in awe of the collegiate Hayes and the professional Hayes, we may well react too negatively when he plays like a 6-9 mortal. And the level Hayes occasionally reaches cannot be sustained.
"I was looking over some of his records just before you called," said Houston coach Guy Lewis, "and there was one stat that really caught my eye. Last year, our high for individual rebounding in one game was 10. Elvin's was 37, and I sat back and wondered how a man could get that many.
"We have a 30-point club here, guys who have scored 30 or more points in one game, and it's a pretty good honor. Well, Elvin's in there, but not as many times as he could be because he's also in the 40-point club. And three times in the 50-point club.
"And the only player in the 60-point club. My golly, would I like to have something like that again."
Although one can never be entirely certain what thoughts dance in the mind of Hayes, one thought must surely dominate now and then: If I can score and rebound and block shots and fill a lane on the break, must I dive for loose balls, too?
Well, yes, if Hayes wants history to record him as more than the ultimate soloist, and if he wants to wear that NBA championship ring as badly as he insists. Dave Cowens did it. But Walton still does it, perhaps as well as anyone ever will.
Probably, Jones ought to have screamed at Hayes in private the way Dick Motta did the other night. But even though Hayes is one of the reasons he sits in his Columbia, Md., home and waits for another chance to coach, Jones is among those who wish him well.
"Sacrifice sometimes," Jones said. "Thoughts about each other. And it means both E and the rest of the club. I'd like to see E win it one time, for his sake. I'd like to see something good happen to him. It could do wonders for him."