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January 11, 2008 in D-League

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The NBA was the last place Chuck Hayes thought he would be after his most recent D-League game.

That was two years ago, and the Rockets forward hasn’t had to worry about the minor leagues since.

Players looking to make the same leap Hayes did have their chance to get noticed next week at the fourth annual D-League Showcase, being held Monday-Thursday in Boise, Idaho.

That was Hayes’ goal in 2006 while playing for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds. He just didn’t think things had worked out as he planned, especially after a four-point performance against Austin in the showcase.

“We had two games, a back-to-back. First game, I played well, played really well,” Hayes said. “Second game I played terrible. Then the next day the Rockets called me up.

“And after the second game I was like, ‘Oh man, I’m never going to get my call-up.’ I was discouraged. I was like, ‘Man, I had my opportunity and I blew it the second game.’ But the next day we were traveling and my layover in Chicago, (Rockets trainer) Keith Jones called me up and told me to catch a flight to Houston and I’ve been here ever since.”

All 14 D-League teams will play two games in the event, with every game being televised by NBA TV. The NBA expects scouts or other personnel from nearly all of its teams to be at Qwest Arena.

“They love the showcase, they love the opportunity for players to be seen by their scouts,” NBA commissioner David Stern said. “The opportunity to have that kind of exposure causes a real high number of players to stay home in the D-League so they can be seen. And that’s causing our teams to evaluate their investments in the D-League in a positive way.”

Eleven players have been called up to the NBA this season, and somebody else can earn a shot with some strong play next week. Just ask Hayes, who has started every game this season for the Rockets.

“Just do what do well,” he said. “Play to your strengths, there’s a role for you. There’s a spot here for you.”

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NBDL Showcase
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May 24, 2007 in D-League

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, Off-Season
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Charlotte Bobcats guard Matt Carroll and Houston Rockets forward Chuck Hayes are two examples of several players that have used the Showcase as a springboard to a spot on an NBA roster. After pouring in 11 field goals in a game during the 2005 event in Columbus, Ga., Carroll earned a GATORADE Call-Up to the Bobcats a short time later. Hayes averaged 11.0 rebounds in the 2006 Showcase in Fayetteville, N.C. in front of more than 60 NBA scouts and was signed by the Rockets two days later.

“The D-League Showcase is a premiere event and it is a great opportunity to highlight the city of Boise and its facilities. It also provides the players a chance to be evaluated by NBA personnel in a competitive environment,” said D-League Director of Basketball Operations, Terrance “Doc” Martin.

With the D-League’s mission to provide continuing education, as well as personal and career development assistance to players designed to prepare them for life during and after their basketball careers, the Showcase also affords an opportunity for league-wide Life Skills and Career Counseling sessions. These sessions supplement monthly workshops that are conducted with each D-League team throughout the season.

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D-League News
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April 24, 2007 in D-League

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, NBA 06-07 Season
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D-LEAGUERS IN NBA PLAYOFFS: Seven former D-Leaguers are on rosters of the four teams that played in the NBA Playoffs on Monday. Chuck Hayes (ABQ) and Rafer Alston (MOB) both started for the Houston Rockets in a win over the Utah Jazz. Hayes had a double-double, 12 points and 12 rebounds, and converted 5-of-5 from the floor. Alston had 11 points, six rebounds and five assists.

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Scouts looking to NBDL for talent
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January 17, 2007 in D-League

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The label itself – the Showcase – implies that someone will be watching the NBA D-League’s three-day, 12-team extravaganza. And, by in large, it’s not the general public.

As many as 130 scouts and front-office types from the NBA and international leagues are expected to take in at least part of the event, which wraps up today at the Arena.

Although confined to one building for up to 12 consecutive hours, the talent evaluators are clearly keeping busy, watching, writing, typing.

What exactly are they looking for?

“There’s no magic formula to the equation,” Portland Trailblazers scout Mike Born said.

It’s different for every team and largely dictated by need, although there are some (vague) constants.

Born puts a premium on efficiency. Tommy Sheppard, the Washington Wizards vice president of of basketball administration, values hard workers. Albuquerue coach and Los Angeles Lakers legend Michael Cooper believes the ability to play within the confines of a team is paramount.

Notice that nobody listed the ability to put up 25 points and 15 rebounds? The NBA isn’t going to the D-League to find stars.

“You hit shots when the shots are there, you make the right play, and I think that’s what NBA scouts are looking for,” Cooper said, “people who make the right plays.”

However vague the terms are, the consensus is that players understand them thanks to input from scouts, agents and coaches.

“They basically already have scorers. They want to see can you fill your role on the team?” Los Angeles D-Fenders guard Sean Banks said. “Can you still get yours, can you still play defense, can you still help the team without being a star.”

The answer is yes. Ime Udoka (Portland) and Chuck Hayes (Houston) appeared in last year’s Showcase and now they’re starters in the NBA.

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News from the D-League
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December 14, 2006 in D-League

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Maybe NBA general managers should heed Cooper’s accurate predictions about his Thunderbirds.Last season, Cooper said his power forward, Chuck Hayes, would be a full-time NBA player. Hayes is averaging seven rebounds per game for the Houston Rockets.

In the offseason, Cooper said center Andreas Glyniadakis would make the league. Glyniadakis is now a center with the Seattle Supersonics.

If Thompson is poised to be the next T-Bird promoted, he plans to savor his time – on the court especially – in Albuquerque.

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Mining the D-League
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November 9, 2006 in D-League

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Training camp begins next week for the NBA Development League

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and one good way to separate the good front offices from the mediocre ones is to watch who is paying attention.

The Development League is entering its sixth season and its second since NBA commissioner David Stern announced he intends to expand it into a formal minor league (the Continental Basketball Association

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and the American Basketball Association
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are also semi-pro leagues chock full of hoops hopefuls looking for a shot at making the end of some big league team’s bench)….

Houston, on the other hand, has shrewdly monitored the waiver wire and the D-League to assemble a good cast around their superstars. A pickup from the D-League last season, Chuck Hayes, started on Tuesday night at Memphis, where he scored 12 points, grabbed 11 boards, blocked two shots, dished two dimes, and stole the ball once while committing no turnovers in 26 minutes. The Rockets’ roster is full of players who were available cheaply like forward Scott Padgett and guards Kirk Snyder and Vassilis Spanoulis. The combined salaries of those three and Hayes is less than the T-Wolves are paying Hudson, who scored 4 points on two of seven shooting in 15 minutes against the Lakers Tuesday night. The Rockets’ shrewd cap management enabled them to have money in their budget to nab Bonzi Wells when he was available on the cheap this summer.

Other teams following the D-League stats closely and making pickups include San Antonio, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago, and New Orleans/Oklahoma City. Players like Bobby Simmons, Andre Barrett, and Marcus Fizer have rewarded shrewd teams with solid play. None is likely to be depicted in a basketball video game soon, but all can contribute to a winning organization.

Superstar talent in the NBA is rare and it will always be costly, but complementary players are an area where teams should police costs. It’s no coincidence the good teams follow the DLeague closely and the mediocre ones make personnel moves as if they’ve never heard of the concept of a minor league.

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Chemistry gone with player turnover
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February 7, 2006 in D-League

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The Thunderbirds have acquired, waived, traded or promoted 17 players through the first 27 games this year. Austin (14-12) presented the same 10-man lineup from its Jan. 21 meeting with Albuquerque.

Four players – forward T.J. Cummings, center Ken Johnson and point guards Yuta Tabuse and Tony Bland – are the only Thunderbirds remaining from November’s Opening Day roster.

Though he’s not ready to make excuses, Cooper admits it’s difficult to coach a team filtering new talent in and out.

“This definitely messes up chemistry,” Cooper said. “Guys that you are used to coaching every day aren’t here anymore. But that’s why they call me a coach. I’ve got to bring this all together. We’ve got to play with what we’ve got. We’re fortunate to still be in this position.”

Arguably the team’s best three players have left since January. The Houston Rockets called up leading rebounder Chuck Hayes on Jan. 18, leading scorer Joe Shipp left the team Feb. 1 to play professionally in Korea and the Utah Jazz recalled C.J. Miles on Friday.

That avalanche of a hit sparked the introduction of swingman Brandon Robinson and guards Darren Brooks and Brandon Mason, a New Mexico State product.

Cummings, the only Albuquerque player to suit up for every game, compared the active roster changes to how NBA teams adjust to trades.

Only most NBA teams don’t lose their best scorer, rebounder and athlete (Miles) in a month.

“That’s part of the game,” Cummings said. “At the pro level, you have to be able to adjust and figure out what everybody is doing. You have to do it no matter what. Just make it work.”

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Chuck getting the rebounds!
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January 13, 2006 in D-League

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Tour de rebound: Forward Chuck Hayes, who is second in the NBADL at more than 11 rebounds per game, snatched 18 boards Friday.

Hayes is 6-6 and was guarded all night by either Luke Schenscher (7-1) or Nick Billings (7-0).

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Standing Tall
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December 22, 2005 in D-League

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At 6-foot 6, forward Chuck Hayes is gigantic to some. But in the world of basketball, he’s on the small side. No matter – he can hold his own.

Chuck Hayes shrugs off the word “tweener.”He knows most scouting reports would say the Albuquerque Thunderbirds forward has all the basketball tools you’d want – for a 6-foot-6 post player.

“I’ve heard that word ever since I stopped growing,” said Hayes, whose T-Birds on Friday defeated Tulsa 97-93 in Tingley Coliseum. “I’m not a three, I’m not a four, I’m not a five.”

Positions or size don’t define Hayes’ basketball prowess. His performance Friday proved that.

The former Kentucky standout finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in front of an announced Tingley crowd of 1,604.

Hayes was one of four double-digit scorers to help the T-Birds (6-3) break a two-game losing streak.

Forward Bryant Matthews led Albuquerque with 23 points.

Tulsa and Albuquerque meet again Sunday at Tingley.

Unfortunately for Hayes, seven-foot monsters (see: Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan) control the paint in the NBA world.

Unless you’re Charles Barkley, perhaps the most successful 6-6 power forward in NBA history.

Hayes likes Barkley.

Figures.

“I like Barkley. I like Larry Johnson – any of those guys who weren’t that tall but still made it,” said Hayes, 22. “I’m a basketball player. I know what I can provide for a team.”

Hayes, who went undrafted, was the last player cut in Houston Rockets training camp.

The T-Birds scooped up the forward with the sixth overall pick in the NBA Development League draft.

The Rockets recently looked to promote Hayes but wanted him to nurse a nagging injury, Albuquerque coach Michael Cooper said.

A severe left ankle sprain has kept Hayes in and out of the lineup.

Before the injury and the season, Cooper said Hayes, if he were 6-9, would easily be in the NBA.

Now, the first-year coach confidently says height won’t deflate Hayes’ plan to become an NBA player.

“You have to like him if you’re an NBA team,” Cooper said. “He’s a beast. He can score on bigger guys. He proved that (Friday).”

Hayes finished 7-of-10 from the field, scoring almost at will on Tulsa big men Tony Kitchings (6-10) and Otis George (6-9).

His low-post scoring ability is coupled with leadership, Cooper said.

“He brings a calmness to our team out there,” Cooper said. “He’s tough and he’s a leader.”

Former coaches always showered Hayes with compliments about leadership, he said.

It wasn’t until recently that Hayes discovered his own on-court presence.

“You can’t panic when everyone else panics,” Hayes said. “You just have to make it happen on the court.”

Spoken like a true little big man.

Toppert starts: Former Albuquerque Academy standout Cody Toppert started and saw 26 minutes of action in his Thunderbirds debut.

Toppert, activated Thursday to bolster the team’s 3-point shooting, finished with five points and two assists.

He went 1-for-4 from beyond the arc.

“I definitely felt good out there,” Toppert said. “I haven’t played in a real game since I was at Cornell in March, but I calmed down once I hit my first shot.”

Cooper said Toppert will remain in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game.

Center out: Thunderbirds center Ken Johnson missed Friday’s game for personal reasons, Cooper said.

He will return to the team Monday.

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