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The Rockets need a lift
Anthony Cotton
January 11, 1982
Injuries, dissension, even God, seem to be working against the '81 finalists
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January 11, 1982

The Rockets Need A Lift

Injuries, dissension, even God, seem to be working against the '81 finalists

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Reid never had any doubts about his ability. "When I left San Antonio to report to camp, all I had in my pocket was $20," he says. "The fare from the airport was $23. I told the driver, 'Give me your name and address. I'm going to be playing for the Rockets and you've got two tickets for the first game.' "

Reid says all the attention he attracted with his playoff performance contributed to his moral dilemma. "People started to recognize me after games," he says. "I'd let my chest swell up a bit at all the fame.

"Pretty soon any door is open to you just because you're an athlete. Some guys go through every door; some doors were open that I went through and didn't feel very good about afterwards. A Christian should be able to say, 'This is one door I can't go through.' "

Reid admits now that his decision to leave the Rockets wasn't fair to his teammates or the Houston management, and that his mother, Blondell, a Pentecostal minister in San Antonio, had nothing to do with his departure. "No one understood what was going on inside me, but people needed something to pin my leaving on and my mother was an easy scapegoat," Reid says. "People freak out when it's something they can't handle, and that's how they feel about sanctified people. We are peculiar in the way we dress and the way we act. People see a sanctified person and say, 'There goes one of them Holy Rollers.' They make fun because they don't understand it."

The 44-year-old Harris, who was a preacher for 10 years, beginning at age 17, says he wouldn't presume that he knows "just what Robert was going through, but I can understand it as well as anyone else. Your mind is 80 percent on the game and 20 percent elsewhere. Then you go home and it's 60 here and 40 there and you become fragmented and can't be true to anything. I think it took guts to take the time to go and find out about yourself like Robert did. I also think the timing could have been better, like in the summer."

For a while last week, Harris seemed to be hoping that Hayes would take a sabbatical of his own. Earlier in the season Harris and the Big E, who's still an effective shot blocker, had argued about the amount of playing time Hayes was getting, but thereafter an uneasy truce held until a 102-93 loss to Atlanta on Dec. 29. After sitting out for most of the final quarter, Hayes sounded off again, "I came down here to play, but I'm not playing. I'm a much better player than I've been here."

The next night, with four minutes left in the fourth quarter of what would become a five-point loss to San Antonio, Harris called for Hayes to enter the game. The Big E seemed to hesitate before getting up to report to the scorer's table. When he finally arose, Harris told him to sit back down. Hayes's version is that Harris didn't give him a chance to respond to the call. "If you're any kind of player and you're going to get four minutes of time," Harris said, "you should want it to be the last four."

After Saturday's team meeting, peace seemed to be at hand. "You can measure a season by games or by the crises a team goes through," Harris says. "The important thing is how you respond to the problems: Do you learn from them or do you respond negatively and destroy your team?"

"I came here because I saw it as a chance to get another ring," Hayes says. "Del and I have been confused about what role I'm to play in achieving that goal. Things have been straightened out, and we can go on from here."

Henderson, one of Hayes's teammates on the Bullets' 1978 championship club, believes from experience that communication isn't crucial. "For a year and a half Dick Motta [then the Washington coach] and I didn't speak to each other. I was quarterbacking his team, but not one word passed between us."

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