The Washington Bullets granted Elvin Hayes his wish last night, trading the 35-year-old forward to the Houston Rockets for two second-round draft picks -- one in today's draft, and one in 1983.
Hayes, remembered for his collegiate duels with Lew Alcindor as a student at Houston as well as his role in leading Washington to the National Basketball Association championship in 1977-78, has repeatedly said he would like to finish his career in Texas, preferably Houston, his home.
The acquisition os a second-round pick today gives the Bullets four in Manager Bob Ferry dismissed the notion that the deal was made to improve his team.
"It's a good move for Elvin," Ferry said. "We didn't really make this move because we got value, we made this move to help a guy who had a great, wonderful career here.
"We've been thinking about it a long time, ever since Elvin first expressed interest in finishing his career there. He said he wanted to go, and we said let's let him to it . . . anything we can get out of it is not important."
"Houston has been my home ever since 1964," Hayes said. "That's where everything began for me. But it's a hard decision. The Bullets have always been like a family."
Bullet Coach Gene Shue conceed that there might have been some strategy involved. "You hate to sound this way, but it's a business," he said. "Even though I feel he has a chance to go to Houston and help that team I think it was a good move for us, too. With the makeup of our team, trying to develop younger players, it was in our best interest to trade him. We're hoping for a decent player with that (35th) pick. In fact, we're tickled to death at what might be available."
The Bullets were the oldest team in the NBA last season. Should they not sign Bobby Dandridge in the next two months, his loss, coupled with that of Wes Unseld (who retired at the end of the season, becoming a vice president of Capital Centre) and Hayes, would make them one of the youngest. p
Houston, a relatively old team, sees the deal as helping on the court and porviding marketing appeal. "This makes our draft. It's something that's been in the works for a while," said Rocket GM RAY Patterson, who traded Hayes to the Bullets for Jack Marin in 1972.
"He plays (Coach) Del's (Harris) offense and defense," said Patterson. "I think it will extend his career, too, with our style of play, a set style. He's good on defense and that's what we want him to do. He won't be outside, he'll be inside with Moses (Malone). That's quite a front line with Moses, Robert Reid and Elvin Hayes."
"We're getting a guy we know can play competitively, at least another couple of years," said Harris, who took a team with a sub-.500 record (40-42) into the finals against the Celtics last month. Harris called Hayes a "one in a million athlete."
"We haver always built our team on free agents and trades," said Patterson.
"I think history will bear out that there's a 50 percent chance that you're right on draft choices. There's no question we were not going to find someone in the second round like Elvin, not on the 35th pick.
"And, it might help Washington to keep (Mitch) Kupchak in the fold, salarywise."
Kupchak, a free agent, has been courted by both the Lakers and Knicks, and retaining him will be an expensive proposition for Washington. The Rockets will absorb all of Hayes' salary for next year, the last year on his contract. Patterson said Hayes' annual salary is "around $400,000." The combined salaries of Useld and Hayes were believe to be around $850,000. That may be sufficient for the Bullets to match whatever offers others teams make to Kupchak.
Hayes, the NBA's sixth all-time scorer and third-leading rebounder, was al all-America every year at Houston. He was graduated in 1968. His most prolific scoring season as a Bullet was 1976-77, when he averaged 23.7 points a game. Last season, he averaged 17.8 points a game, his lowest average ever.
But for Bullet fans, Elvin Hayes will always be the forward with the astounding stamina -- he has missed seven of a possible 1,066 games in 13 seasons -- the turnaround jumpshot with the touch of silk and the defense.
If Hayes had one achievement in his nine-year tenure here that stands out from the field, it was his performance in the Bullets' 4-2 victory over ycentral Division champion San Antonio in the quarterfinals of their championship drive in 1977-78. He had 28 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots in Game 2, when Washington took away the Spurs' homecourt advantage; his dunk and ensuing block of a George Gervin drive won Game 4, and he combined with Larry Wright to score 11 of the last 15 points, including a dunk, in Washington's victory in Game 6.
Berring any further major trades, the Bullets' starting lineup next season should be Kupchak, Greg Ballard, Rick Mahorn and, in the back court, Kevin Grevey and Kevin Porter. If the team fails to sign Dandridge, the only starter left from their championship season would be Grevey.
"They are sticking to their guns on a rebuilding program," said Ballard. "They had to do something and this proves they are doing it. It'll be a whole different look . . . I believe we'll be much quicker and do a lot more as far as overall hustle and aggressiveness are concerned. Without Wes and Elvin, those things are going to have to make up for a lot of points, a lot of rebounds and a lot of blocked shots."