"O.K.," said Elvin Hayes.
Saturday night, when Russell moved in with his front-running Celtics, McMahon was right back with his confidence game. Hayes was at forward; poor Henry Finkel was the center. With Russell, the master defender, usually a safe distance away, Hayes poured in 26 points and had 17 rebounds. (Boston won, of course, 120-112.)
"With Russell," said Hayes "you never know what to expect. He has such great lateral movement. He's always got an angle on you. He told me that he can take just two steps and block a shot from any position on the court. I remember the first time I was matched up against him. I was out in the corner and he was under the basket. I figured it was safe to shoot. But as I went up, there he was, tipping the shot. I said to him, 'Big Bill, why do you have to hustle so against a poor little rookie like me?' He said, 'Elvin, I've got a reputation to protect.' "
Later Saturday night Russell sat in the visitors' dressing room, tired but more than a little pleased with Hayes's performance. "That Elvin—saying I'm his idol," said Russell gruffly, but grinning. "It's darn embarrassing. But he's a good kid. And he's going to be a great player. He's outstanding right now, but, of course, he's got a lot to learn."
"Like what?" someone asked.
Russell's laughter, deep and rich, boomed out. "I can't hardly tell him that. At least not while we're still playing." Then he added, softly, "But if he was to ask me himself, I'd tell him."
Russell shook his head. "There's just one thing—when he gets out on the court and tries talking to me. Now that's my game. But I don't listen to him. The only time I listen to anybody out there is when I'm the one doing the talking."