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April 23, 2008 in Editorial

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For those wondering, this picture was taken for me because I couldn’t make the trip to Houston for the first round of the playoffs. Thanks Mig! (You too can visit Clutchfans to find great people like I did)

I will make this into a wallpaper when I get some free time to update the site so that everyone can share :)

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[Modesto Bee]Patience Pays for Hayes
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March 22, 2008 in NBA 07-08 Season

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Modesto Christian grad brings hardhat to court every night for Rockets

OAKLAND — Eighty minutes before tipoff and Chuck Hayes juggles a handful of duties.

Tickets for former Kentucky teammate and current Golden State Warrior Kalenna Azubuike. Settling an NCAA Tournament bet he lost to Houston Rockets teammate Steve Novak, whose Marquette Golden Eagles beat his GoldenWildcats. And, finally, settling into Game 69 on the NBA schedule.

Hayes, the Rockets’ worker bee in the paint, is doing off the court what he does on it — the little things that people, if they’re watching closely, admire.

“I’m trying to play according to what the team needs,” Hayes said before Friday night’s game. “It’s a blessing that I’m here and it’s a blessing that I got here. It could be a curse but it’s still a blessing.”

Hayes refers to the role no one thought was there for him in the league. If you’ve followed his already laudable career since his days at Modesto Christian, you know what was expected from him at this level — essentially, nothing.

He had no takers until the Rockets signed him to a 10-day contract — one of those “Let’s see what he’s got” dress rehearsals — in January of 2006. He’s been a Rocket ever since.

Has it been easy? Not to someone who rebounds, defends and retrieves without scoring much in the NBA. He understands he’s blessed. He also acknowledges his pigeon-holed role and the frustrations attached with it.

Hayes, 24, confronted this dilemma long ago, and he’s at peace with it. Because if he wasn’t, he’d probably be rebounding, defending and retrieving at a much less prestigious hoops address.

“When I got to Kentucky, I was told, ‘If you want to get on the court, this is what you have to do.’ I did it,” he said. “The same coach I had here before this year (Jeff Van Gundy) told me the same thing. And I want to play.”

Charles Hayes, Chuck’s father, admires his son. He also thinks he could score more points, garner more minutes and pull a few more headlines toward himself. His is a reaction where reality collides head on with fatherly love.

“This is a kid who used to be the catcher on his grammar school team and a wide receiver in football. He just had to be near the ball,” Charles said. “I think he’s capable of much more, but Chuck doesn’t like to sit.”

The Rockets like Hayes enough to look past games like Friday night. The matchup with the high-flying Warriors didn’t figure to be comfortable for his defense-first style, and it wasn’t. Hayes, struggling with mismatches, picked up three fouls in only 4:25 of the second period and never returned. Without him, the Rockets’ bench more than compensated in a 109-106 win.

“I got caught in the gray area. When in doubt, (the officials) picked 44,” he summarized. “I would have scripted it a little bit better, but we won.”

Truth to be told, it hasn’t been an easy season for Hayes (2.9 ppg, 5.4 rb), whose minutes have dwindled after he started 44 games. First-year coach Rick Adelman replaced him with 6-9 Luis Scola, a more offense-minded forward, and then rested Scola by inserting explosive rookie Carl Landry.

So much for Hayes, the Rocket often asked to put up a fight against stars such as Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Lamar Odom. If the ex-Crusader is sobered by his reduced role, he’s not letting on. Fact is, Yao Ming’s season-ending injury resulted in an opportunity, a chance for a bigger impact. And Hayes cashed in that chance during Houston’s celebrated 22-game winning streak, the last 10 minus Yao.

“I think Chuck coming off the bench knows he has to bring it more. He’s a high-energy guy. Chuck, being the professional that he is, still comes in and plays the same game,” teammate Rafer Alston praised. “You have to tip your hat to a guy who stays professional, especially in this day and age when you have so many unprofessional guys.”

Hayes’ ultimate trump card never has changed: His teams usually win. He rates the Rockets’ streak better than the 26-game run his team enjoyed at Kentucky and the 25-game streak strung together at Modesto Christian.

“People asked me if I’ve ever been involved in a streak like this before and I said, ‘I’m not new to this,’ ” he said. “But at this level, it was pretty amazing.”

Truth be told, there were more than a few observers in the NBA who thought Hayes would be a poor fit in the open-court game preferred by first-year coach Rick Adelman. Instead, Adelman found a spot for Hayes’ skills.

“He’s our best defensive big defensive man at forward. The reason we’re good defensively is a lot because of Chuck,” Adelman said. “I watched him last year and he was effective. You appreciate him more when you see him in person.”

For Hayes, more little things to do and more points to prove tonight at Phoenix.

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Gene Patterson: The Top 10 Reasons…
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March 13, 2008 in NBA 07-08 Season

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…The Rockets Are Red Hot

By Gene Peterson, Radio Play-by-Play, KILT 610 AM
Posted Mar 13 2008 5:59PM

NBA.com caught up with Houston Rockets’ broadcaster Gene Peterson to discuss why and how the Rockets are in the midst of a 20-game win streak. The Rockets expert provided 10 solid reasons that explain the team’s recent success.

1) The team’s adaptation to Rick Adelman’s system
The defense was there a year ago, which was something that Rick obviously was pushing hard to have continue, but they have adapted to his offensive style after taking a couple of months to fully adjust. His is a motion offense that is structured around everyone passing the ball, of everyone being involved. They did it earlier in the season before Yao got hurt and it has just continued. That is the most important factor as to why they’re playing so well right now.

2) A top notch T-Mac
Tracy is playing the best he has ever played in his entire career. I’ve told him that and he’s said other friends have told him the same thing. There is no question about it. He had to do a lot of things in Orlando – mainly scoring – that no one else could do. He even led the league in back to back years (’03 and ’04). Here he hasn’t had to do that. He’s been the consummate team player and very, very unselfish. He scores when he has to score. For example, against New Jersey he scored 19 but he could have scored two and we would have won that ballgame. He has adapted himself to Adelman’s style.

3) The coaching of Rick Adelman
The job that he has done as head coach is absolutely phenomenal. His substitution patterns have been terrific and when Yao Ming went down he was able to get this team to continue to play his style of basketball. Rick makes sure that they take it one game at a time. These guys are not caught up in a 20-game winning streak. How could they be when you see how close it is from No.1 to No.10 in the Western Conference? They are caught up in trying to make the playoffs. He has done a marvelous job of coaching this basketball team and I think he is one of the best in the business. This year he has really proved that.

4) Rafer Alston – no longer just ‘Skip To My Lou’
Rafer has been absolutely superb. A lot of people have maligned him but they don’t realize that he’s averaging double figures in scoring; he hands out six, seven, eight assists a ballgame; and he only turns it over twice a night. This young man is playing the best of any point guard in the league right now. That’s not to say he is the best point guard, but he is playing superb basketball and is a major reason the Rockets are having the success that they are.

5) The adaptation of the Van Gundy defensive style
Jeff Van Gundy instilled a lot of his defensive principles into these guys’ minds that were here last year and it has maintained. They have adapted that philosophy, led by Shane Battier, who is probably the best defensive forward in basketball. Every single night Shane gets the tough scorer. The other night he did a marvelous job on Vince Carter holding him to 5-for-15 shooting. Night after night he does it.

6) Daryl Morey: The Team Architect
Our general manager, Daryl Morey, has done a great job, mainly because he was given carte blanche by our owner, Leslie Alexander, to go get the likes of Luis Scola and Carl Landry. The deals were made and both have been major, major parts in the play of the Rockets this year. Scola had tremendous success while playing in Europe with Spain and with Argentina as a professional. Even though he’s one of the older rookies in the league at 27, this is a new story for him. The NBA is a much different style of basketball. And Carl Landry was just a gold find, having been obtained from the Sonics on draft day. This young man is a terrific young player and he’s got the heart of a lion. We’ll give a little bit of credit to the youngster, Aaron Brookes, too. Despite the arrival of Bobby Jackson recently, he’s had some very good moments with the Rockets.

7) The ageless Dikembe Mutombo
How about the play of this guy at 41 years old? He had to step in with just unbelievable shoes to fill with Yao Ming out for the year and all he did his first game in there was block four shots. The next game he blocked four more. The next game three more. Against New Jersey he blocked five. So in about 130 minutes of play he’s blocked about 15 shots. Dikembe Mutombo is just the consummate professional. He’s not going to score a lot of points for you, but he does the job in the middle. He plays 23-24 minutes a ball game and is extremely effective. His contributions have been a major reason as to how we’ve won eight straight without Yao Ming.

8.) Yao Ming, pre-injury
Yao Ming is just a terrific, terrific professional. He has skills that I don’t think any other 7-6 guy has. Because of his size he has defensive liabilities and he doesn’t have the greatest of hands and leaping ability, but when it comes to offensive skills, he has it all – the jumphook, the fadeaway jumpers. How many guys do you know 7-foot-6 that shoot 86 percent from the free throw line? He was a major part in this run for 12 games who was enjoying his best season to date before the unfortunate season-ending injury.

9) Chuck Hayes, Luther Head and the entire Rockets’ bench
Chuck Hayes is a guy that people say can’t start because he can’t score, but he has been another major factor coming off the bench for this team. He was starting for a long time, but since Scola was inserted in the starting lineup, we haven’t lost a game. Coming off the bench in situations where defense is required, and I’m talking about against the Tyson Chandlers of this league, the seven footers, you can’t say enough about Chuck Hayes and the great hustle that he provides. And as an added bonus he’s even had 12 assists in his last five games. Luther Head has been another guy who, with this outside shooting ability, has affected the game for the Rockets. Overall, whenever anybody has been called on by Adelman, they have gone in and done the job.

10) The Red Rowdies
The electricity of the fans in Houston over this last series has been terrific and I think the players would agree with that. Sometimes it hasn’t been as volatile and vociferous as you’d like it to be, but lately it has been a big boost. The city of Houston right now is caught up in Houston Rockets basketball, not in the Astros or anything else. Let’s face it, there’re only two championships in the city of Houston as big as it is – the fourth largest city in the United States – and both of those championships belong to the Houston Rockets.

Gene Peterson
“Voice of the Rockets”

Gene Peterson enters his 45th year in broadcasting this fall and his 33rd and final season as the “Voice of the Rockets.” In his career, Peterson has only missed 25 contests out of a possible 2,592 regular season games with the Rockets.

Peterson’s career began as a disc jockey in Brookings, South Dakota, with a dream to one day broadcast professional basketball games. His career took him to WECL in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, KOB in Albuquerque, New Mexico, KCMO in Kansas City, Missouri, and finally to KPRC in Houston, where he took the job of sports director.

In 1975, Peterson’s dream came true as he became the play-by-play announcer for the Rockets. Over three decades later, Peterson has called both NBA Championships for the Rockets, as well as the action of Houston’s greatest players from Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler on through the years to the current All-Stars of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.

A native of Albert Lea, Minnesota, Peterson became interested in broadcasting while serving his military duty with the United States Air Force. After his tour was over, he returned to Minnesota to study broadcasting at the Brown Institute in Minneapolis.

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[Slam] On the 20th Victory
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March 13, 2008 in NBA 07-08 Season

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Been a tough week in the SLAM Dome, as we put the finishing touches on SLAM issue 118. And I’ve had to ignore The Links the last two days, because one million other things all needed to be done all at once. But you knew I had to watch tonight’s game in Atlanta, where the Rockets were gunning for their 20th consecutive win, which would tie them with a couple of other teams for the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. I’ve got a good feeling about my Hawks tonight. Let’s get it on!

• I’m glad to see Mt. Mutombo back in The A…and Josh Smith is also glad, as he out-jumps him for the opening tip.

• FSN Houston announcers Bill Worrell and Matt Bullard tell us that Mutombo hosted a party last night at his Atlanta home for all his teammates. Hopefully he took ‘em out to Magic City afterwards, too.

• Apparently the Rocket bench players keep standing until they score their first basket. What is this, a high school team?

• Luis Scola picks up 2 fouls fast, probably in less time than it takes to dry his hair.

• Joe Johnson drains a three to make it 5-0, early. The Houston bench is still standing. Luckily there’s nobody in the seats behind the bench.

• After missing three consecutive jumpers, the Rockets decide to drive the ball…and Rafer blows a layup. Then Marvin Williams nails a long jumper to put the Hawks up 7-0.

• Meanwhile, Luis Scola came out of the game and was replaced by Wild Ass Chuck Hayes. Scola walked over to the bench and was handed his warmup top, but because the Rockets haven’t scored he couldn’t take a seat on the bench. So Scola stands there all sweaty, perhaps cheering harder than anyone else on the Rockets for them to break into the scoring column.

• And Wild Ass Chuck Hayes scores! Scola makes a beeline for the bench.

• Why the Wild Ass with Chuck Hayes? About a year ago I was interviewing Shaq, and, well, just read on…

ME: Is this the hardest season following a championship season that you’ve ever been through?

SHAQ: No, no. It’s been a weird season, because once again there was another freak injury for me. I’ve never had an injury where I just go up and pull a muscle or hamstring — it’s always landing funny or something freaky. So this time, wild-ass Chuck Hayes was coming through the middle. Our knees bumped, his knee was messed up for about 6 weeks and I had to get surgery.

The funny thing about it was the way he said it, completely even-voiced, as if Chuck Hayes’ first name was actually “Wild Ass” Chuck Hayes. And since then, every time I hear his name I can’t help but to preface it with “Wild Ass.”

• Mike Bibby is better help defender than ball defender. That’s probably not a good thing.

• T-Mac sticks a three and makes it 9 to 4 with 8 minutes to go.

• Bibby responds my tossing up a jumper that hits the rim and then bounces up and over the backboard and out of bounds. My friend Mike used to always note than when someone shoots and ball that bounces up and over the backboard, it always feels like you it’s somehow worse than just shooting and bricking one off the rim. Even though it’s not. But somehow, it still kind of is.

• Joe Johnson rips a 3 and I check the clock on top of the screen…which is stuck on 8:12. I guess Mutombo took the FSN Houston clock out last night, too.

• Marv lobs a lovely alley-oop to J-Smoove to make it 14-4 with 6:50 left. Adelman, who’s apparently been napping this first quarter. finally wakes up and gets a TO.

• According to the announcers, this is the biggest deficit of the 19-game in streak for Houston, a pretty amazing stat. I just can’t believe an NBA team with Rafer Alston starting at the point has won 19 straight games. After Worrell reads that stat, Bullard says “that’s why they’re not panicking.” What? Obviously, they shouldn’t panic because the game just started and all, but shouldn’t facing your biggest deficit of the streak cause you to panic?

• Worrell also mentions that Deke lives near Janet Jackson. Maybe Rhythm Nation 1814 was inspired by the year Dikembe was born?

• A Battier three makes it 14-8. The Rockets definitely aren’t panicking.

• Another Battier three makes it 14-11, taking down the FSN Houston scoreboard again. The announcers claim the crowd is over-half full of Rockets fans. Come on now, guys. There aren’t that many Rockets fans in Houston.

• Joe Johnson hits another three and then the Hawks throw a ball away that Josh Chill sorta leans after as it rolls out.

• Bobby Jackson in for Houston. He just doesn’t look right without a headband.

• Novak checks in for the Rockets. Sounds like a good name for a wacky neighbor on a sitcom.

• T-Mac hits a two to make it 16-14. The quarter’s almost over, and both teams look like they’re nursing 19-game losing streaks.

• FSN Houston finally just gives up on the clock. Good move.

• Zaza Pachulia trots onto the floor and looks like he’s playing at half-speed. He immediately loses a rebound to Novak, hilariously flipping the ball into the air and directly to Novak about two feet away, like only Zaza Pachulia can do.

• Novak makes the easy lay-up to tie it at 18-all after one quarter.

• I keep waiting for Mike James to check in for Houston. instead, we are given the gift of Luther Head.

• Zaza Pachulia cannot jump off the floor. This has long been a defining trait of his game, and yet he has managed to work around this little flaw and forge an NBA career. Nobody has told Houston, however, because Zaza catches in the post and spins to the basket and then sort of dives to his right and collapses, drawing a foul on the Rockets even though Zaza never had any true intent to shoot that ball.

• The scoreboard is back. And so are the Hawks, as now they’re down 3.

• The absolute worst place to pass Zaza Pachulia the ball is when he’s completely unguarded standing directly underneath the rim.

• By the way, last night I was making the bed and my dog Starbury celebrated the Knicks season by throwing up all over the sheet. So that was fun.

• 8:24 to go in the second, and Luther Head somehow drives directly through Salim Stoudamire with touching him to make it 25-22. The bad news is that as bad as the Rockets were in the first quarter, they’re even worse without T-Mac out there creating opportunities for everyone else. The good news is that they’re playing the Hawks tonight.

• Following Starbury’s lead, the Hawks perform a tribute to the Braves bullpen and issue back-to-back walks. Houston is clinging to a 27-24 lead.

• Mike Harris checks in for Houston. No, me neither.

• Billy Worrell says Luis Scola told him that he’s lost almost all confidence in his three throw shooting. TMI, Luis! Probably better you don’t let word get out, so teams don’t play Hack-A-Luis. And maybe If you’re having a problem with some part of your game, you shouldn’t tell it TO YOUR TEAM’S ANNOUNCER!

• And almost simultaneously, Scola picks up his third foul on beautiful open field tackle. Back to the bench for Scola. This time he’s allowed to take a seat.

• I can say this about Al Horford: He’s by far the best-dribbling power forward the Hawks have had in the last few decades. He’s always grabbing rebounds and trying to start fast breaks. I really like him, especially how hard he works, but the one thing that bothers me is how stiff he always seems. Can’t we send him to ballet classes or something in the offseason?

• I would try to describe the flow of this game to you, but how do you describe nothing?

• Mike Woodson goes small, and Joe Johnson immediately hits a three to make it 32-28. Don’t tell me JJ’s not an All-Star. He’s carrying the Hawks lately.

• And Wild Ass Chuck Hayes gets his 3rd foul, too, trying to keep up with the faster Hawks. How about it, Woodson? Nice job working the lineups.

• Tonight’s Southwest Airlines destination of the game is Phoenix, whatever that means.

• FSN Houston redeems screwing up the clock by showing the tape of guys doing their Mutombo imitations that was all over the internets yesterday. If you didn’t see it, it’s really brilliant.

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A Part of History!!
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March 6, 2008 in NBA 07-08 Season

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Franchise record streak extends to 16

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ROCKETS 117, PACERS 99

HOUSTON – Why Chuck Hayes? How come a franchise-record 16 straight Houston Rockets victories? What sense does it make? It’s all about unselfishness.

There’s a real team in downtown Houston. They play together. They pull for each other. They now have the most consecutive NBA victories that any Rockets team ever has fabricated. Yet after the 16th straight win – 117-99 over the outmanned Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night at Toyota Center – another streak entered into the Rockets’ minds.

The Rockets are on a six-game head-to-head losing streak against the Dallas Mavericks. They will try to reverse that skid in the second half of a TNT national doubleheader game in the American Airlines Center tonight at 8:30 p.m. It may help considerably that Dallas will go to war without their leading weapon Dirk Nowitzki, who was suspended for a game earlier in the day by the league office for his actions in Monday night’s game at Utah.

It also may work in Houston’s favor that Rockets coach Rick Adelman was able to limit Dikembe Mutombo to under eight minutes (7:45) of playing time and Luis Scola to under 22 minutes (21:43). But the Rockets will not care that they reached a season-high 66 first-half points. They won’t really be all lathered up that Chuck Hayes delivered a season-high 9 points and 11 rebounds.

They will be very glad that Chuck’s OK, though. Hayes came down from a rebound on an opposing player’s foot right before the first half, turning an ankle.

But here’s the most important thing. It’s called the unselfishness which Adelman and his players mention constantly.

Before you could say Rockets owner Les Alexander, at least of three of Chuck’s teammates would run out onto the court and be right at his side, checking on his condition.

“I saw that and it really sent me a special message,” Hayes said. “That’s the thing about this team. We really pull for each other. Plus, we know right now that with Yao (Ming) out, this team can’t afford to lose anyone else.”

Hayes felt his ankle would be a “little sore” on Thursday morning, but his presence came in handy when a few of Houston’s front-court regulars gave far below their greatest performances.

“We moved the ball well as a team,” Hayes said. “We did tonight, it was great. It shows how unselfish we are.”

It also shows why Rockets’ coach Rick Adelman deserves his newest award as NBA coach of the month for February. The Adelman approach to constant ball movement is making more and more of an impression on his players. It’s turning Tracy McGrady into an even better than he has been throughout his career.

McGrady was truly outstanding with 25 points, including 23 in the first half. It marked Tracy’s first 20-point opening half since he collected 21 against Denver last November.

“It’s all about confidence,” T-Mac said. “We’ve got a great chemistry and we’re playing so well. The guys really believe in each other. They’re hustling for loose balls. They’re doing whatever it takes to win.

“It’s history. We’re going to be in the books for a long, long time. Tonight was a short-term goal we had that we wanted to accomplish. We got it done tonight but it doesn’t stop there. We want to keep it moving. We don’t want to become complacent. We want to keep our eyes on the prize and win a championship. I think the way we pull together as a team is the best that I’ve ever been a part of. We get along.”

Indiana made a nice third-quarter run at the Rockets, trimming a 66-49 halftime deficit to 79-71 midway in the third. At a crucial moment when momentum could have shifted, T-Mac would display a new-found unselfish maturity that had to delight Adelman.

Spunky rookie Carl Landry missed a layup. Crafty veteran Shane Battier grabbed an offensive rebound and passed it around to McGrady. Tracy drew his defender into the air, but chose to pass up his shot. Instead, T-Mac opted for the extra pass to Scola who sank a layup from the left baseline. The play gave the Rockets a 90-76 cushion and the Pacers never came within 12 points for the rest of the night.

Five Rockets finished in double-figures – McGrady 25, Rafer Alston 21, Luther Head 14, Scola and Landry with 13 each.

More importantly than many of those points were the minutes Adelman got from bench-warmer Hayes. Chuck played nearly 30 minutes (29:19) on the first of a tough back-to-back. It certainly was appreciated greatly his Chuck’s coach.

“Chuck was terrific,” Adelman said. “He kind of set the tone for us when he came in the game defensively. He just established a presence in there and around the basket. I thought he really changed things up when he came in.”

A few witnesses in the sellout crowd of 18,160 might have noticed, too.

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Blog Update: Rolling Along
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March 4, 2008 in Blog Updates

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Still Rolling

Right now, we’re on a roll. We’ve won 14 straight games heading into Sunday’s game against Denver and we didn’t lose a game in February. I haven’t been on a roll like this since high school.

The Blazers went on a roll like this earlier in the season and now we’re doing it. With the Western Conference as good as it is, it’s great to have a winning streak like this because you’re going to need every win that you can get in this playoff race.

We feel like we’ve got great chemistry. We’re doing what we want to do on the offensive end and we’re locked in defensively. We’ve just got to keep it going.

I had never heard of a team going undefeated for a whole month. That’s impressive. But in the West, it seems like everyone else is on a winning streak too. The Lakers and the Spurs keep winning. We’ve still got ground to make up.

Losing Yao

It hurts losing Yao Ming. He was having a great season and he’s such a great guy that you hate to see him get hurt. We’ve got to change our game plan and take out the big fella.

Now, we’ve got to adapt to it. Offensively, it’s going to be by committee to replace his low-post scoring. Defensively, we should be a little more feisty. We have to keep teams out of the paint because we don’t have that security back there with Yao.

Increased Role

I’ll have increased role since Yao Ming is out. I’ve just got to be ready. I have to help the team however I can and try to be productive when I’m on the court.

I was never down when I wasn’t starting and lost some playing time. That’s part of the game. We found a rhythm and coach chose to play me spot minutes. That’s fine. Whatever helps the team. During those spot minutes, we were on a 13-game winning streak. So I couldn’t be mad. I just need to be a team player.

Now, I’m being called upon again. I’ve just got to go out there and play hard.

I’ll probably draw some matchups against some big centers. But that’s fine. Whatever we need.

Disappointing Race

My 10-month old son had a tough debut in his first athletic competition. During a timeout in Tuesday’s game against Washington, my son was in the Baby Race at Toyota Center. Basically, if you haven’t seen it, the race has four babies at one end of a mat and they’re supposed to crawl to the other end before the other three.

I was expecting him to win. But when they said, “Go,” my little man did not move.

That was tough. I was bragging about him so much heading into the race. I was placing bets in the locker room. Nobody wanted to take me up on it, but they should have. He didn’t move at all. He came in a close last.

I don’t know what happened. Maybe he had stage fright. Maybe he had a big dinner and he was resting his stomach. I don’t know. But he just sat there looking at the crowd.

Unfortunately, the guys have been giving me a hard time about it in the locker room.

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[Blog Update] Sleeping through the Superbowl
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February 10, 2008 in Blog Updates

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Willing and Dealing in the West

Well, it looks like teams are getting ready to make that playoff push.

The teams in our conference have been busy making deals. The Lakers got a good trade by picking up Pau Gasol. They needed another big man to replace Andrew Bynum and I think it’s going to be good for them. The Lakers are going to have a good front line when Bynum returns from his injury.

The Suns, meanwhile, just shocked the world by getting Shaquille O’Neal. He’s a pretty big contrast to that team. But they feel he can help the team. The West is just so tough that teams are looking to do anything to get better.

How do these moves effect our team? Well, it makes my job tougher since all these contending teams have more big men. Gasol is going to be a difficult matchup in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense with Kobe Bryant. And then you throw in Shaq. That’s tough.

Teams are definitely trying to find a way to get this championship.

Wild West

The playoff race in the Western Conference is definitely tight. Right now, there are 10 potential teams that could be right there. We’re all pretty close to each other.

Knowing that, we’ve got to stay hungry. We control our own destiny. We just have to keep winning. Be consistent and win.

We can’t have any letdowns because you can slip out of this race with a bad streak. We have to take care of business and win a fairly good percentage of the games we have left.

That would put us in great position to get into these playoffs.

Super Bowl Party

We had a Super Bowl party on Sunday in Minneapolis, but I didn’t make it.

I had worked out with our strength and conditioning coach, David Macha, and he wore me out pretty good. I went back to the room with about an hour before the Super Bowl party, but I dosed off. I woke up midway through the second quarter.

I could have gone down at that point. But I was so comfortable in my bed that I didn’t go. I heard the guys had a lot of fun. But I was so tired from my workout, I didn’t find a way to make it outside of my bed.

I closed my eyes during the second half, but I saw who won. It was an unbelievable fourth quarter. I didn’t see much of the first. But that fourth quarter was great. No one expected what the Giants did. Everybody expected the Giants to make it competitive. But Eli Manning was great.

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[Chron] On the Post-Philly Streak
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February 9, 2008 in NBA 07-08 Season

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A speech from Chuck Hayes (44) helped spur the Rockets.

Rock bottom becomes launching point
Team meeting, 9-1 run follow day of infamy: a date with Philadelphia
By FRAN BLINEBURY –Link

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You can look at video and analyze stats. You can search for trends and try to read body language. You can point to this critical basket or that crucial stop.

There are probably a zillion ways to explain how an NBA season has gone from over-the-cliff to over-the-top, how the same team could turn from sinking rocks to soaring Rockets.

Yao Ming has one word: “Philadelphia.”

It was Jan. 15, the night the Rockets hit rock bottom. It was the night when the winless-in-2008 Sixers used a 37-point fourth quarter to sprint out of a 16-point second-half hole.

What should have been a comfortable win for the home team turned into an embarrassing 111-107 loss, leaving the Rockets just one game over the .500 mark. And a whack with a sledgehammer couldn’t have done more to get everyone’s attention.

“It was the bottom,” Yao said. “A sweep by Philadelphia? It’s unbelievable for me. The only thing I can remember being worse is the first year of the (Charlotte) Bobcats in the league and we were swept by them. It’s the same thing.”

But the Rockets have responded with a 9-1 record since then and might have saved their season.

“It was no more excuses after that game,” Yao said. “On a road trip (Dec. 10), we lost in Philadelphia. From my standpoint, we should never go and find an excuse for ourselves for losing. But obviously, you’re a human being. You’re going to say, ‘OK, it’s a road trip. When
they come to our house, we can beat them. We can give them payback.’

“Then they beat us again. It was a horrible feeling. It was really, really hitting us. I don’t need to say too much more. But the next 10 games, I think, already told people how we care.”

Following the sting of the home loss to the Sixers, the Rockets eschewed most of a regular practice to watch video of the flop and had a team meeting.

“Players, coach, everyone,” Yao said. “We were all thinking that the season is getting away if we do not start right now. It was Chuck (Hayes) who said (in the meeting), it’s about how we care about our careers. How we care about being professionals.

“Everybody started thinking about that. Chuck is the guy who spoke out. I don’t know I should tell you that. But it’s a good thing. It was from Chuck, a guy who does not do much talking. It meant something to hear those words from him.”

Sustaining focus

Hayes didn’t go into the meeting intending to have a “win one for the Gipper” moment. It just poured out of him.”I can’t remember exactly what I said,” Hayes said. “I don’t know if I was especially emotional. But there were a lot of emotions in that room.

“I just told everybody what was on my mind. I told them that we have to play like every game means something to us. Look, right now we’re nine games above .500, and we’re still barely in the last playoff spot. The Western Conference is hard. Nobody was going to give anything to us. We have to take it.”

During the winning streak, the Rockets have solidified their defense. They’re helping each other out more. They’ve been piling up 23.6 assists per game, pulling down 45.5 rebounds per game. Most important, they’ve been keeping their focus throughout games.

“That Philly game was the one when we really were in control and the way we lost it,” coach Rick Adelman said. “We had nine or 10 turnovers and I think five of them were post-entry passes. That’s just the relaxation and casualness about finishing the game off.

“It’s a game we should not have lost. People talk about New Orleans. But I don’t know if you can talk about that game, because they’ve beaten a lot of teams down the stretch and they’ve got the personnel. But we basically let Philadelphia back into the game, and we succumbed to it. I think it was a rude awakening to our guys when we lost that game. I think the team just has a tendency to relax and that game really showed it.”

A Philly flash point

What the last 10 games have shown is growth.”What the terminology is that’s working, I guess I would agree with it,” Adelman said. “But I don’t know why it would take so long. Everybody knew what the West was going to be like. This conference is tough. You might win 46 games and not be in the playoffs. We better realize that. No one is coming back to us. We have to go and catch them.”

Before they could do that, the Rockets had to catch themselves in free fall and pull the cord on the emergency chute. Now they’re learning to chin themselves over the bar.

“What I like about the team in the last couple of games is that we are playing strong during some minutes and not coming apart,” Yao said. “(Thursday) night in the first half, we got a lead and then they came back to one. Then in the third quarter, we came right back out strong and got a 10- or 12-point lead.

“We talked to each other, during timeouts, at any time in the game, when the play stopped. We talked to each other about defense, about making passes, about rebounding. We said we needed to pay attention. The game is not over yet. They will try to fight back. The game will not be easy. Over the last 10 games, they have not been easy, but we have won most.”

It’s a turnabout that can be traced to one game, one night, one word.

“Philadelphia,” Yao said.

The rallying cry for a season.

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Rockets adapt with each game
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January 31, 2008 in NBA 07-08 Season

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Players accept constantly revised starting lineups based on opponent

link

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This was not what Rick Adelman had planned, not anything he would have predicted. But it fits.

He has long preferred to come up with a group of starters and a rotation, usually not a deep one, and then stick with them. Through the first half of his first season coaching the Rockets, he went with that formula. In the four games since, he has changed his rotation on the fly, finishing with different groups in each game and making his first change to starters not forced by injury.

With that, he came up with a different formula, in which the only constant will be change.

“It’s just something you have to do,” Adelman said of his suddenly adjustable rotation. “The way the league is now, you have to (adjust). Some teams play conventional. Some teams, like (Tuesday) night (against Golden State) and the team we’re going to see on Friday (Indiana), you have to play small. You have to have active people on the floor because they have shooters everywhere. I just think it’s something we have to adjust to night in, night out. Fortunately, we do have some flexibility there.”

Most of the changes are at power forward where Luis Scola replaced Chuck Hayes in the starting lineup. Adelman has not decided on Friday’s starters, but with the Pacers’ low-post power forward Jermaine O’Neal out, he was “leaning” toward keeping Scola as a starter.

Go with the flow

Even beyond that switch, he has used Carl Landry and Scola as backup centers and Landry as a power forward. And in the past two games, he mixed in Steve Novak. In the backcourt, he has used Bonzi Wells and Luther Head as starters when Tracy McGrady has been out. Wells did not play at all in the fourth quarter Sunday, but he played on several possessions in the final minutes Tuesday.”I never expected not to play Chuck (Tuesday) night, but Luis got off to a nice start and Carl came in and played well, and they went completely small so I was more comfortable playing smaller people,” Adelman said. “I think the guys we have, we’re pretty flexible, especially with Luis getting more comfortable being out on the floor, guarding people. I think we can do it, depending on the game.”

For the Rockets’ power forwards especially, the rotating rotation requires they be ready and adaptable. Though he started Tuesday, Scola played his customary 25 minutes. In the past five games, his playing time has ranged from 40 minutes (in Sunday’s game when Yao Ming was out) to 22 minutes against San Antonio. Hayes’ playing time has ranged from 24 minutes to not at all. Hayes, Novak, Landry and Scola all have finished games.

“You have to be ready,” Scola said. “Teams are different. So many games, so many teams, you have to be ready for everything. Sometimes you need some kind of player, other times you need some other kind of players. There are games that are good for you, other games that are good for some other players. You just have to be mentally ready for every game and every moment of the game.

“We have power forwards that are very different. Everyone can give something the other guys can’t. We can use Steve when we need a really good shooter. We can use Carl when we need the five, or Chuck when we play a really good power forward for him to stop. That’s a really good thing. If you have the versatility on your roster, I think it’s good.”

Hayes the stopper

The defensive responsibilities seem to be the top indicator of who will play. With Scola no longer as foul-prone on the perimeter as he was early in the season, he has played against the shooting power forwards. When teams have high-scoring fours, such as Utah’s Carlos Boozer on Sunday or Seattle’s Kevin Durant on the final possession last week, Hayes has been the choice.That gives Hayes the unenviable task of playing only in the most difficult of circumstances, but he said anything that earns playing time is fine with him.

“As a competitor, you want to play, period, no matter who is out there,” Hayes said. “We play according to personnel, who they’ve got and how they play. Coach (Adelman) tries to match up. If he feels this five matches up best with that five, he’s going to play them.

“I just have to be ready.”

These days, a long list of teammates feel the same way.

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Blog moved to NBA.com
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January 9, 2008 in Blog Updates

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They moved the blog from strictly the Rockets website to the my.nba.com space, so now more people will view it.  Click the link to post comments on the site. 

Talking Free Throws and Poker

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Jan 7, 2008

My Free Throw Shooting

I’ve had a few of you guys ask about my free throw shooting. Basically, it’s under construction. It’s been a habit of mine since high school. I’ve always had a hitch and a hesitation. At times, it’s better than others.
I work on it daily. I get as much repetition as I can and I use a form that I’m comfortable with. That’s what it takes. Repetition to know that it works. But I’m still trying to trust that form that I’ve been practicing with in the games.

It’s really all mental with me. I have to know that I can go to the line and knock it down. I can’t think so much about it.

Texas Hold ‘Em

Since the start of the season, I’ve been trying to get the guys to play poker on the road. Finally, I got them to do it — and then I didn’t do too good.

The guys usually play another game that I’m not a big fan of. But they decided to play Texas Hold ‘Em on this trip. I thought I’d do well, but it wasn’t a good game for me at all.

I pretty much had the worst luck ever. For those who read the blog and understand Texas Hold ‘Em, I had pocket queens and Mike James had 5-8 unsuited. Five, Ten and Three come out. He bets and I go all in. He actually calls. He flips over his cards and I’m killing him. The next card comes up and it’s a seven. Yes! The only thing he can beat me with is a 5 or an 8. What happens on the last card? He gets a 5 on the river. That kills me.

On another hand, I got 8 and 9 suited. I’m going at it with Bonzi Wells and Mike. I go all in and they call because they got more chips in a side pot. Three cards come to give me my straight. But those three cards also gave Bonzi a flush. Man, I just took a bad beating.

It wasn’t for me. I won’t be bugging those guys to play poker again for a while.

Great break

Since we pulled off that win over Orlando on Friday night, I’ve watched the replay on Adonal Foyle’s last-second tip-in about a dozen times. I don’t blame the officials at all for the call that they made. It was really close. Honestly, I thought they might give the Magic the benefit of the doubt. But I guess they didn’t.

When I saw the replay, it was really too close to call. It could have gone either way. I’ve seen it frame by frame, but I don’t think you could tell unless you could zoom in about 100 shots to actually see if there was a finger on the ball when the buzzer went off.

But the officials saw something that I didn’t. That’s why we got instant replay. We left Orlando with a win.

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