Monday, August 23, 2010

The Smallest Big Man in the NBA

"You ain't gotta be 7 feet to handle business, man. You just go out there and do your job"

The wise words of the Chuck Wagon as he answers the question so many Rockets fans with crazy eyes ask themselves, "Why does this guy start against the seven footers?"

Most accept the truth: Hayes did start at the big spot last year. Even so, I still come across ignorant criticisms of his game written all over forums by oblivious fan-writers. Obviously, I'm a big fan of Chuck. NOT this big of a fan, but I always pay close attention to what he does ON the court... and not on TMZ. I won't try to awe you with some kind of percentage I came up with while attempting calcululator acrobatics. It's really hard to prove how effective he is, but why should we have to? His positive impact is easily recognizable. Just note the effort and hard work #44 puts in before and during every game. If you're one of those fans still having trouble seeing Chuck's "intangible" skills, just remember: Chuck Hayes was the guy Van Gundy threw out there when no one could stop the Dirks and the KGs and all the other All-Star PFs in the league. Van Gundy's endorsement, not to mention Thibodeau's, should mean a whole lot. It seems people are forgetting, or never understood, how useful Chuck was in that defensive specialist role.

Chuck's starting minutes at the 5 prove he can bang with the best of the bigs, but I buy into the theory that he played the entire '09-'10 season out of position. He could always stop and control a Dwight Howard, a Bynum, or another young center easily. But, over the course of the season, his body could only take so much. I remember noticing Chuck decline last year, when he stopped stepping in to take charges, nursing that knee, half jogging and half limping down the court. I've come to the conclusion that Chuck's self-preservative decisions had a lot to do with the Rockets' incapability to make it to or really compete in the postseason. Why give up your body if you know we can't even make the eight seed?

However, I believe that, coming off the bench to fill the role of the back up PF, Chuck will exceed expectations. We lose nothing defensively; we actually upgrade. Offensively, he's like a coach out there: creating in the high post, setting wide picks for our guards, setting up shots and sneaking in points when no one cares to guard him. I can already see our second unit with Chuck handling the ball at the high post and finding Lowry, Bud, OR the newly acquired Courtney Lee on a back door cut. That should not be very hard to visualize.

On a side note, could you imagine if we were to release or trade him after the JVG era, as many people believed we should? My guess is that he would have followed Tom Thibodeau to Boston, and we would all have to bow down and kiss the rings. And since Morey has decided to keep him on for this next year, I have started to think about the past off-seasons. The off-seasons during which he helped Chase, Carl, Aaron and the other rookies at the Toyota center, remind me how devoted to winning this guy actually is.

Until recently, the Rockets might have figured Jordan Hill or Patrick Patterson would compete for minutes at the 4-5 positions. But Chuck Hayes has had such a terrific summer that it will once more be virtually impossible to keep him off the floor.

At the NBA's big man's camp, he has been leaner and stronger and faster and absolutely determined not to be overlooked. Around this time every year, we doodle with different playing rotations and almost always have someone playing for the Chuckwagon. Forget that. The Chuckster will be playing.

Richard Justice

If we're done making any more melo moves before the summer ends, this could be one possible line up for our bench: Lowry , Lee, Bud, Hayes and Miller.
Though this lineup will most likely be used sparingly, it would be one fast front courts, especially with Chuck and Brad providing the full court outlet passes. I would take that lineup over a whole bunch of the league's starting fives.

Replace the word "Trevor" with "Courtney" in this video about Outlet Passes. Good commentary.

I really appreciate the off-season work Daryl Morey has done. I really am ecstatic about our draft pick, Patty Patterson. From the interview on draft night, and from what I have been reading in other interviews, I get the impression that he is a very honest, respectable player, eager to learn under our system. I see Chuck becoming somewhat of a mentor to Patterson and Hill. Having two high-IQ players in Chuck and Brad should really help these young bigs develop.

Overall, it will be really nice to have Chuck back in a more fitting role: the backup 4. I think his familiarity with Yao and the rest of our veterans will be the key to his success and to the Rockets' success.


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