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Van Gundy dismissed as Rockets coach
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May 18, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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Jeff Van Gundy was dismissed as Rockets coach on Friday, less than two weeks after the Rockets’ first-round loss to the Utah Jazz.

After initial ambivalence about returning to the team as coach, Van Gundy had made his desire to be back clear. The Rockets, however, had already begun an extensive interview process with former Kings, Warriors and Trail Blazers coach Rick Adelman who is considered the only candidate to replace Van Gundy.

Van Gundy had told the Rockets that he would not object to the team looking into its coaching options.

On Thursday, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey offered Van Gundy another position with the team, expected to be in a consulting role. Van Gundy has turned down that role.Van Gundy was 430-318 in 11 seasons as an NBA coach, 182-146 in four seasons with the Rockets. He has a 44-44 postseason record, losing in the first round to the Lakers in 2004, the Mavericks in 2005 and the Jazz this season. Their trip to the 2004 post season was their first since 1999. The Rockets’ 52-win season this year was their best since 1996-97

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Round One Game 7: Rockets vs Jazz 5/5/07
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May 6, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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Round One Game Six Houston vs. Jazz 5/3/07
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May 4, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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After Practice – 5/2/07
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May 3, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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Call goes his way
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May 2, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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Rockets forward Chuck Hayes was surprised to have gotten the call on Derek Fisher’s late charge in Game 5. But he might not have been as surprised as his coach at Kentucky, Tubby Smith.

“It’s funny, because in college, my coach couldn’t get me to take a charge,” Hayes said. “But now, it’s put my body in front, create an act, be dramatic with it and get the call. When I created the contact, I reminded myself it was Derek Fisher and thought he was going to get the call. I was telling myself I should have been there earlier.

“I saw him. He had a full head of steam. I just took a chance.”

Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said Hayes was doing his job.

“I wouldn’t say it was a hard play; it’s more of a courageous play,” Van Gundy said. “You just have to have the courage to step in and want to win.”

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Rockets notes: Drawing charge is part of job
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May 2, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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HOUSTON

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– As long as he is playing on a minimum-salary contract, albeit one that pays him some $664,209 this season, Rockets forward Chuck Hayes probably will disagree with what coach Jeff Van Gundy said about the charging foul he took at the end of Monday’s game.

Although he described Hayes’ play as “courageous,” Van Gundy refused to praise his forward to high heaven. “It’s what he gets paid to do,” the coach said. “Let’s not overdo it. It’s a hell of a play and he gets nicely compensated to do it. Do your job, and he did, and that’s good.”

Hayes finished scoreless in 27 minutes of Game 5 but got in position to take the charge against Derek Fisher with 12.4 seconds left and the Rockets clinging to a 94-92 lead. Tracy McGrady called it a “moment of happiness” and said Tuesday of the undrafted Hayes, “He could last in this league a long time.”

Hayes revealed that the art of taking a charge is one he learned in the NBA: “It’s funny because, in college, my coach couldn’t get me to take a charge. Now, I just put my body in front, create an act, be dramatic with it and hope I get the call.”

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[Chron]Hayes ‘living in the moment’
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May 2, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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The many faces of Chuck Hayes, from left: college freshman, defensive stalwart and valuable playoff contributor.
For a player once relegated to the D-League after going undrafted in 2005, postseason heroics in Games 2 and 5 are pretty heady stuff

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Nearly two years after Chuck Hayes waited by a phone that never rang, the messages came one after another through the night.

“All last night, a lot of text messages,” Hayes said Tuesday. ” ‘Good game. Way to put your body in front. Huge charge. Way to play.’ Just a bunch of little stuff.”

Not long ago, the NBA had lost Hayes’ number. He went undrafted. He was cut in the Rockets’ training camp. He was unwanted as his first season out of Kentucky began.

When the Rockets brought him back from the NBA Development League, he failed his physical and began to doubt he would have an NBA career.

Yet here he is, between such luminaries as Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. And there he was, a star in Monday night’s playoff games, right up there with Robert Horry, LeBron James and Tracy McGrady.

Hayes stepped in front of Derek Fisher’s drive to draw the charge that sealed the Rockets’ 96-92 Game 5 victory over the Utah Jazz.

The 6-6 power forward with a jump shot, plucked from the D-League to play with two of the league’s most celebrated name brands, had made the difference.

“I try not to think about it too much, but it’s one heck of a story,” Hayes said. “As much as my mind wanders and I think so much, I can’t believe where I came from. But I’m not complaining. I’m enjoying it. I’m loving it. And I’m living in the moment.”

• • •

The night of the 2005 NBA draft, Hayes sat alone. The house was full, but he banished himself to the bedroom in his parents’ home in Modesto, Calif.

“I sat in my room . . . sitting, watching it by myself,” Hayes said. “That’s where I wanted to be: by myself. I didn’t hear my name called. I had to go to summer camp. I think about the process I had to go through to get here. So many times I could have given up. My family would not allow it.

“I had a lot of doubts. ‘What more do I have to prove? What more do I have to do? Don’t my credentials speak loud enough for me?’ I doubted everything I had done at that point.”

Hayes had started all four years at Kentucky, but he was ready to believe he would never make it in the NBA. The Rockets were ready to sign him out of the D-League in December 2005, only to back off when he arrived in Houston with a sprained ankle.

“I have great support, as far as my parents and the people who have been there,” Hayes said. “They kept me in their prayers, and when the opportunity came, I took advantage of it.

“When they called me and I failed the physical, that one really hurt. That was the first time I thought maybe it’s not for me. You keep striving; you keep pushing. And when you get that opportunity, when you see that daylight of a chance, you hit it and hit it hard.”

By the second game of this season, Hayes, 23, was starting, with coach Jeff Van Gundy deciding that despite his lack of a perimeter shooting touch, Hayes’ defensive quickness, intelligence and tenacity made him a good complement to Yao.

“Chuck is a really special player,” McGrady said. “To be 6-6 and coming from being in the D-League … to being on a franchise, a first-class organization, and playing with two great players and a bunch of individuals that are really great, and to come in here and get in the starting lineup and contribute the way he did this year, it just shows you how much having confidence and hard work pays off.

“If Chuck goes out on the basketball court and plays all out with his energy and rebounding, playing great defense, running the floor, for him to be 6-6, he’s one of the best. He has great hands. He has a great basketball IQ. He just has a great feel for the game. He can be a really special player and last in this league a long time.”

There was a time, however, when Hayes thought his career might be over after 10 days.

Last season, when he was summoned to Van Gundy’s office for an 8 a.m. meeting, Hayes assumed he would be released. Instead, he was signed for the remainder of the season.

“That’s when I knew, I can play this game,” Hayes said. “I can survive in this league. The night before, we played in Minnesota. I was at the end of my 10 days and John Lucas was at the end of his second 10-day. (Van Gundy) said, ‘the media is going to want to talk about 10-day contracts. I don’t want you to even think about it.’ But it was all I could think about.

“That night, I played well. I got a call from Keith (Jones) saying coach wants to talk to you at 8 in the morning. I was nervous. I was freaking out. When I was released, it was in a meeting at 8 in the morning. When he told me, I called my mom, dad, everybody.”

More than a year later, he already has been around long enough to be used as the example of the way the Portsmouth Invitational (the pre-draft camp where Hayes was MVP) and the NBA Development League can launch a career.

“It’s pretty neat. It’s cool,” Hayes said of becoming a role model. “When I was in the D-League, they were using Rafer (Alston) and Bobby Simmons as the poster children of the D-League. ‘If they can make it, you can make it.’ Well, I guess I go on that list as guys that go from the D-League to the next level.

“It’s a competition. That’s what this game is. As a competitor, I pride myself on outworking my man. It’s a competition, and I hate to lose. It’s in me. It’s always been in me.”

• • •

This was already going to be a spring Hayes would never forget, no matter what happened on the court. The day of his Game 2 breakthrough, when he had 12 points and 12 rebounds and was called the key to the Rockets’ win, his girlfriend, Nicole Anderson, delivered their first child, Dorian Titus Hayes, hours before the game.

As much as Hayes’ success has drawn attention, he lights up at the mention of his son.

“This fatherly thing is new to me, but I’m learning,” Hayes said. “I’m trying to take everything my father (Charles Sr.) taught me to my son’s life. I’m just trying to be there, to talk to him, to let him know my touch, just be there promising I’m going to be there.”

So after the locker room cleared Monday night, after Hayes had done his national television interview for TNT and met with wave after wave of media and teasing teammates, he finally returned from the shower and leaned far back in his chair.

“Now I can go home,” he said, “and my baby will be waiting up for me.”

There were dozens of congratulatory messages there, too, but they waited until morning.

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Round One Game 5: Rockets vs. Jazz 4/30/07
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May 1, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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Rockets: Houston Gets Head(s) Into Game
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May 1, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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Luther Head knew he had to do something. After being the Rockets’ most productive reserve, averaging 10.9 points and shooting 44% from both sides of the three-point arch during the regular season, Head was having trouble getting it going in the postseason. So he hit the gym on the morning of Game Five, taking several hundred extra threes, just trying to get comfortable. It didn’t really pay off until the fourth quarter, when Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming needed some help on the offensive end, and Head finally got himself rolling. Two three-pointers and a driving lay-up got the Rockets on top, and it was just the shot in the arm the team needed.

It had a lot to do with McGrady’s determination to get his teammates involved. After two road games in which he primarily called his own number – even on highly-contested possessions – McGrady came into Game Five looking to make his teammates better. He recorded 16 assists, a career-playoff-high, and the result was that the Rockets their best, most balanced offensive attack of the series. Shane Battier was 5-of-7 from three and scored 15 points, Juwan Howard as 6-of-6 from the field for 12 points, and Rafer Alston made 3-of-7 from three to score 14 points. That’s the kind of balance and participation that Houston was missing in Utah.

“(Yao and Tracy) were 7-for-22 at half and that’s not gonna do. It’s not gonna do. Mac was taking the right shots, he was going at the basket, and he created great shots for other guys through his penetration. He played a tremendous game, he really did. That’s what our other guys need. They need him and Yao to bring them into the game. They did that (tonight).”

Yao Ming finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds, while McGrady scored 26 points to go with his 16 dimes, but this game came down to the contributions of the second unit. Yes, that second unit that was missing in action in Utah. In the closing seconds it was the defense of Chuck Hayes that iced this win for the Rockets. He drew an offensive foul on one possession, blocked a shot on the next, and Yao Ming hit a pair of free throws on the ensuing intentional foul to give the Rockets a 96-92 win – and a 3-2 lead in the series.

“That’s not a hard play; that’s more of a courageous play,” said Jeff Van Gundy of Hayes game-saving defensive stops. “That’s more of a courageous play. You just have to have the courage to step in and want to win. He and Shane do that for us. You’re in Game Five and the ball’s driving to the basket – that’s a hell of a play, but that’s what he gets paid to do.”

84% of the teams that win Game Five go on to win the series, so history is on Houston’s side. More than a history lesson, though, the Rockets need to continue to keep their second unit involved and those guys need to continue to make their open shots and get defensive stops. That’s a lesson this team must take with them to Utah for Game Six.

“We’re just going to try to get better tomorrow,” concluded Van Gundy. “You just try to get better, try to play as well as you can, put yourself in position, and then we need to win a game on the road.”

The Houston Rockets are one road win away from advancing to the second round of the NBA playoffs. They’re one road win away from seeing Tracy McGrady finally win a playoff series. It’s nice to have a home game waiting if things go awry in Utah, but allowing this Jazz team an extra game would be a huge mistake. The Rockets need to close this thing out and get ready for the winner of the Dallas/Golden State series.

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Knowing your role: Rockets vs Jazz 4/30/07
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May 1, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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