Sometimes you just wish Elvin Hayes would fill a lane on a fast break into a monastery, never to speak again. That will happen the same day fish walk up Constitution Avenue. you are tired of reading about Elvin and these fingers are bruised from typing the big guy's name, but what else should we talk about today? Earl Strom?
Yes, Strom. Hayes doesn't like Strom, one of Sunday's referees, the architect of the "poorest officiated game I've every played in," to quote Hayes. only minutes after Seattle beat the Bullets, 93-92, in game three at Capital Centre, Hayes blamed the defeat on the referee.
Strom joined a cast of thousands. Though this championship round is only three games old, Hayes has spoken critically of his coach, his teammates, newspapermen and television and radio broadcasters. Tiny, the Bullets' dachshund mascot, has escaped Hayes' stern judgment so far. Pray for the pup.
As wonderful a basketball player as he is, and all the eyes must attest to that. Hayes is a failure at diplomacy as all with ears know. What he gains by unloading all blame is a mystery. Ten years an All-Star, by now he should be able to utter those cleansing words, "My fault." But, no. Fault lies with everyone else, the latest target being Earl Strom.
Strom is innocent of Hayes' charges. He worked well Sunday. The job is impossible to start with. Each side can pick out errors of judgment, but Hayes' characterization of Strom as "a road referee" - implying the referee gives the visiting team the best of it - is unfair. Two examples prove it.
In game six against Philadelphia two weeks ago, the Bullets led by two points at Capital Centre. Desperately, the 76ers' Lloyd Free tried to make a three-point play by going up for a jump shot and falling into his defender, one Evin Hayes. Instead, Free was called for charging.
Earl Strom made that call.
Hayes liked it. That day he said nothing about Strom being "a road referee."
In Sunday's game, the Bullets had a chance to win a last-second shot. They were given the shot when a Seattle man was ruled to have stepped inbounds before throwing the ball in. It was a controversial call. Only a strong official would have made it.
Strom made the call. Asked how that call squared with his diatribe against "a road referee," Hayes changed the subject.
As it happens, Strom probably was mistaken on that last-minute decision. If we judge by the television replay, the Seattle man had not stepped inbounds too soon. The point remains the same: Strom did an excellent job under the heaviest pressures Sunday. To blame him for a one-point defeat is ridiculous, especially when so many other things went wrong.
For instance, Hayes and Dandridge once again did nothing in the fourth quarter. In the three fourth quarters of this series, Hayes has scored two points, two points and five points; Dandridge has made zero points, eight and one. Mathematics tells us the Bullets would be up three games to Dandridge had averaged seven points total in the none, instead of down two to one, if Hayes and last quarters of the two defeats. They averaged four.
Explaining his fourth quarter performance of Sunday, when he made two of three shots, both layups, Hayes lectured the inquiring press on the intricacies of the Bullets' offense. He said each play has several options and just because he gets the ball doesn't mean he's going to shoot it. Entire games could go by, he said, without him getting a shot.
Dandridge took another tack. He and Hayes do most of the scoring early in games, he said, and then the offense becomes more balanced down the stretch. Everyone gets involved, he said.
That leaves open the question of why you'd want to go away from your main men when the stakes are the highest. Hayes' lecture also left listeners befuddled. He's good enough in that offense to average 22 points in the first three quarters of these games. So why does he average only three points in the last quarters?
Anyway, all that was complicated by the miserable work of the Bullet guards. They made only nine of 45 shots. Their collective failure to shoot well from outside allowed the Seattle defense to collapse inside, giving forwards Hayes and Danridge little room to work.
It is the classic defense against the Bullets: double-team Hayes and Danridge with help from the center and guards, and keep it up until somebody hurts you from outside.
This puts an awful burden on the main men. Yet Hayes and Dandridge have risen to the chore, performing beautifully in all rounds of these marathon playoffs. They are to be given credit for making this a season Washington will remember, for without them this Bullets' team is nothing.
It subtracts little, then, from their happy accomplishments so far - even all appearance in the championship series is more than most Washingtonians expected - to say the Bullets have been mediocre against Seattle. They are in a deep hole, down two games to one with the next two in Seattle, and they deserve to be there. Any team that cannot get more than four points in the fourth quarter of two losses from its two main men deserves no championship. And none of it is Earl Strom's fault.