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Chuck is popping up all over… now he’s weighing in on playing in the NFL on nba.com.
LeBron James isn’t the only former All-State wide receiver collecting NBA paychecks these days.
Rockets forward Chuck Hayes spent some time lighting up the gridiron in high school as well, as a jumbo receiver at Modesto Christian in California.
“If I’d have stuck with football through school and straight on to college I might have done well,” Hayes said Friday afternoon. “But the transformation from college football to the NFL, that has to be huge. I think if LeBron had stuck with it he would have done well. And we all like to toot our own horn.
“But the demands of the game, the Xs and Os, the blocking schemes and … there’s just so much to it, so much to it. Again, the physical demands of that game are so tough. I think you’d have to have a real passion for that to stick to it.”
Hayes said he simply did not have that passion. After earning All-State honors he gave up football after his junior year of his school.
“I played because all my homeboys played,” Hayes said. “But I hated going across the middle. I made my slant route look like a post route. And by the time my senior year rolled around I had more top notch colleges looking at me for basketball than I did for football. I made my decision right there.”
Interest from the likes of Notre Dame and UCLA couldn’t sway him to football. Not with Kansas and Kentucky, where he starred in college, calling.
These days Hayes is happy in his role starting for the Rockets, 7-5 heading into tonight’s game against the Hawks. He’ll leave all the football talk for James and other dual sport alums like Nate Robinson (who starred as a cornerback in college at Washington before deciding to stick with basketball) and Allen Iverson.
“You can’t imagine the physical pounding they must take,” Hayes said of NFL players. “I give those guys the utmost respect. In that game, every inch counts. They hit hard and they’re so strong. The speed of the game is probably faster than I think, and I don’t mind giving them credit on that.
“You have defensive lineman running around out there with 4.6 speed. That means he’s catching me. It’s such a pounding on your knees and your body. You always see those [NFL] guys at the end of a season having this surgery and that surgery. It’s just not for me. Again, I give those guys the utmost respect because they obviously do their jobs very well.”E-mail Sekou
The NBA season starts tonight… and Chuck is going to be replacing the 7’6″ Yao Ming as starting center for the Houston Rockets.
Despite his height disadvantage, Hayes is key to the Rockets defense. Hence, Jason Friedman dubbing him the Stealth MVP of the Rockets this season
Thus, we return to the tale of Hayes, a player who cannot be properly defined by the numbers which inhabit a traditional box score. His career averages of 3.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game don’t exactly leap off the page. Dig deeper, however, and you begin to see why the Rockets hold him in such high regard. A small snapshot such as Hayes’ team-leading plus/minus during Houston’s second-round series against the Lakers offers a glimpse into his value. But the big picture view is just as impressive: last year Hayes saved the Rockets approximately 6 points per game with his defense relative to that of an average player at his position. For reference, that number was good enough to place him in the top-10 of all players, regardless of position, in the NBA.
But toss aside those numbers for a moment and simply watch the 6-6, 238 pound Hayes play. See how he’s so rarely caught out of position. Watch the deft quickness of his feet and the way he uses his strength and low center of gravity to turn the tables on bigger opponents so that suddenly, against all odds, their advantage has somehow become his. Marvel at his uncanny ability to defend the pick-and-roll to near perfection. This, then, is no player who’s simply benefitting and being propped up by a bunch of statistical tricks. Hayes is a player providing your eyes with ample proof of his legitimacy nearly every second he spends on the floor; especially at the defensive end.
Check out the rest of the article on Rockets.com
Boston owned a 31-22 advantage heading to the second quarter.But the Rockets turned the tables over the course of the next twelve minutes. Sparked in part by Chuck Hayes’ incredible defensive effort against Garnett, Houston’s D finally came to life and, as an added bonus, its offense went into peak efficiency mode, too.
Hayes, despite giving up at least five inches to KG, went toe-to-toe with the Celtics’ superstar, harassing him to such an extent that the previously scorching Garnett missed three consecutive shots with Hayes guarding him.
“You’ve got to give it to Chuck Hayes,” said Adelman. “I mean he came in that second quarter and he just battled Garnett when he really had it going, and I can’t give Chuck enough credit. He hasn’t been playing and he just took on the challenge and he kind of set the tone in that first half for us.”
October 20, 2008 in Quotes
Jason at Rockets.com talked to the creator of the ESPN Trade Machine and now Rockets employee Sachin Gupta who in the course of the interview talked about players who are undervalued.
Chuck was one of them.
“Though my work is mostly objective and doesn’t involve me giving my own personal opinion, Daryl and [Vice President of basketball operations] Sam Hinkie are both very open to hearing what I think. I think they like the fact that I bring a different perspective to the group, even though I may not be right. Daryl and Sam are both very open-minded and they want to make the best decisions possible regardless of who comes up with the ideas. Especially since I got to know the trade and salary cap rules pretty well while building the trade machine, they listen to my ideas about trades and free agency, and respect my opinion about players who I think may be undervalued.”
And precisely what type of player is undervalued?
“Chuck Hayes has always been one of those guys,” says Gupta. “A lot of things just can’t be measured in the box score stats. So one thing that we like to do is measure a player’s impact by seeing how the team performs when he’s on the floor versus when he’s off the floor. And Chuck is always a guy who, when he’s on the floor, the team just wins. He may not have a direct impact by putting up big points, but when he’s on the floor our defense is better and he makes the hustle plays that help us win games.”
“In general, defense is what’s not captured in the box score, so defensive players are probably the ones who are most underrated in the league.”
I know I am about the most horrible blogger in the planet (I am working on getting my masters, cut me some slack.) but this is just a quick post. I love when Jonathon Feigan posts something about his talks with other people and Chuck just “comes up”. Scroll down the comments until you get about half way down.
(A few weeks ago, I was visiting with Tom Thibodeau, the former Rockes assistant that ran the Celtics defense. I mentioned to him that it was really something to see that defense he and Jeff always ran with the Rockets work with a long and active four like Kevin Garnett, the Defensive Player of the Year. He said a few words about Garnett, particularly about his practice habits and consistent effort and then launched into a long spiel about Chuck Hayes, his style, his strengths, the ways they could defend because they had him. I never mentioned Hayes or the Rockets. We all know there are things Hayes cannot do, but the qualities Tom talked about were very tangible. Clearly, he disagreed with your assessment that Hayes sucks, but what does he know about NBA defense. It’s not as if he will ever win anything as a coach in this league. As for Ridnour, I don’t think they would spend their summer allowance on a backup point guard. — Jonathan)
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.
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.