Elvin Hayes thinks the Bullets are on the verge of losing more this season than the injuried Mitch Kupchak and Phil Chenier. Their next casualty, he fears, may be their pride.
"We have the talent to win even without Mitch and Phil," said Hayes. "But we have to start having more pride in our performances. Everyone has to start doubling their performances right now.
"We may think we are giving 100 percent, but we have todig down and start giving 110 percent. We are using the injuries as an excuse.
"We are getting paid by Mr. (Abe) Pollin to play basketball, even if there are injuries.If I go out there and don't give my best, I'm cheating myself and cheating the team. We've got to have everyone adopt that attitude."
Hayes was despondent yesterday over his team's play and he noted that he has only one more year on his contract "and maybe I won't have to put up with all the promises I hear every year after that.
"Every year they say things are going to be different. But it never works out that way. Maybe after another year, who knows where I'll be."
Hayes says he has noticed a growing lack of confidence on the club, which increases with ever Bullets loss. "When we won 60 games (in 1975) we walked out there and knew we could win. Now we don't. Other clubs realize that and they are taking advantage of it."
He said he wasn't talking about any particular player. He said "Teams are coming out on the floor confident they can do what they want to do against us.
"You have to make sure that they respect . . . when a guy has a game like Paul Westphal had against us (scoring 13 points for Phoenix Sunday), you have to want to stop him, and not let him do it. When I go out there, I don't want my man to score a point, not one ingle point.
"When I was with San Diego, we lost a lot, but at least we made teams work against us. When the game was over, they knew they had been in a struggle."
The Bullets are struggling to win. They've lost 10 of the last 13 and have won only one of their last 11 road games. With both Chenier and Kupchak out of the lineup, they are 3-7 and now are just two games above .500 going into tonight's game against Denver.
The game will be televised at 9:30 on WDCA-TV-20.
Hayes has been magnificent over the last four games. He has averaged 27 points and 18 rebounds and has become the Bullets' all-time scoring leading in the process, moving past Kevin Loughery. He also is the NBA's 10the all-time scorer.
He had slumped briefly before the All-Star break, but since Coach Dick Motta talked to him about responding to the challenge facing the team, Hayes has turned in his most consistent string of efforts this year. Now he'd like some other players to help pick up the slack.
"We're not clicking as a unit," he said. "Something is missing. We've got to play well as a team and we aren't doing it.
"We know Mitch and Phil are out. Why dwell on that? Nothing is going to change it. But we are talented enough to win, even on the road."
Hayes dismissed talk that once the club returns, to Capital Centre, where it plays 18 of its last 28 contests, things will straighten out.
"Why are Denver and Portland and Phoenix and Seattle winning on the road?" he asked. "They aren't sitting back and saying, well, don't worry about road games, we will do it at home.
"We are going to get so far behind San Antonio that if we catch up, we'll probably burn ourselves out doing it. Then we'll be in a miniseries (in the playoffs) and that is always dangerous."
San Antonio has opened up a 6 1/2-game lead on the Bullets and the Spurs also have a favorable home schedule remaining. Hayes said he and his teammates still feel they can catch the Spurs.
"But we have to start talking basketball and thinking about nothing but basketball," he said. "We have to concentrate better. We can't let anything distract us now.
"It's got to come from the heart, from inside. There isn't anyone out there to help us. If we don't do it ourselves, no one else is going to bail us out."
Hayes should pass the 19,000-point mark before the end of the season. He says he'd like to play for four more years, and finish with around 26,000 points. "But I really would be happy scoring just one more point if that won a championship for us" . . . The Bullets will return home Thursday night to play Buffalo, then they have a road game Friday at Indiana . . . Bob Dandridge has a stiff neck but should play against the Nuggets.