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Thursday March 24, 2011 0:48 AM

The Chuckwagon Rolls On

Chuck Hayes' first career triple-double lifts Houston to 131-112 victory

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Chuck Hayes was trending on Twitter. Not just in Houston. And not just in the United States. No, he was trending worldwide.

Let that sink in for a moment. Chuck Hayes, the Rockets’ ultimate hard hat and lunch pail guy, a player boasting nondescript career averages of 4.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, spent his Wednesday night enjoying a Q rating comparable to the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and the social media behemoth that is Rebecca Black.

Deserved? Absolutely. But shocking all the same. Of course, when you’ve spent the better part of a 6-year NBA career lurking in the shadows doing the dirty work that hardly gets noticed only to suddenly proclaim your presence with a jaw-dropping triple-trouble, people are bound to take notice. And that’s exactly what Hayes did against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, racking up 13 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high 11 assists to help lift Houston to a 131-112 victory – the Rockets fifth in a row.

“Honestly, inside I am jumping for joy. I am so juiced inside,” said an elated Hayes in the Rockets’ postgame locker room. “It’s a great achievement. I’m excited. It’s something you read about and something you see the great stars do – never in a million years did I think I would get it but I did.”

The achievement itself is remarkable to be sure. But the greater meaning surely lies in what it represents. Here is a player who went undrafted in the 2005 NBA draft before ultimately finding his niche as an ace post defender. Rockets fans know the routine by now: stick Hayes on the opposing team’s best big man and watch him go to work, shutting down his mark no matter how many inches he concedes.

The only problem: Hayes was seen as a zero on the offensive end, often unable to finish even from close range while being an absolute liability at the free throw line. His minutes dwindled as the Rockets’ frontcourt gained more depth. During the 2008-09 season, he averaged a mere 12 minutes of playing time per game. His NBA destiny seemed set as a defensive specialist who could be called upon for spot duty. Only it wasn’t. Not even close.

Ever heard the saying luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity? Chuck Hayes is living proof of its timeless truth. With Yao Ming suffering season-ending injuries each of the last two years, the Rockets have desperately needed help at the center position. Hayes knew this and realized he would be called upon to fill a larger role than he had previously enjoyed. The key, however, is that he didn’t simply welcome the increased minutes without accepting any of the responsibility that came with them. How easy would it have been for him to just take the starting gig and maintain the status quo, knowing that the Rockets were in a bind with few other options from which to choose? Knowing Hayes, of course, such a thought surely never even crossed his mind. Instead, he went to work: getting in the best shape of his career; changing his diet; living in the gym; becoming a student of the game; perfecting fundamentals; and, yes, tirelessly striving to correct the hitch in his free throw stroke that had become so pronounced during games.

Hayes did all of that and more. And that is precisely why Wednesday’s achievement is about way more than reaching some arbitrary-but-cool statistical benchmark. This is the product of the countless hours of hard work and perseverance Hayes put in – not just for himself, but for his team.

“Over the past two years, my team needed me,” he said. “Just be a threat, be an influence out there on the offensive end so they can respect you down there underneath the basket.”

Wednesday’s game – and let’s face it, this entire season – showed that Hayes has become exactly what his team needed him to be. His transformation into an impact player has been instrumental in giving the Rockets a fighting chance to make the playoffs and, like the rest of his teammates, he’s managed to raise his game when it’s mattered most, helping his club to a 12-3 record since the All Star break.

“I can’t say how pleased I am for someone like Chuck,” said Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman. “That’s just terrific for a guy like that and the way he works and the things he’s done. I can’t emphasize enough the improvement he has made offensively to be more than just a screener. He’s becoming a great passer – you saw that tonight. It’s just a pleasure to watch a guy like that and his work ethic and everything he does. It’s really terrific.”

Hayes deserved a night like this: the standing ovation; the locker room love; all the exposure. Defense will always be his calling card. Heck, his skill in that area still doesn’t garner nearly the attention it should. But what took place Wednesday evening at Toyota Center transcended mere offense and defense. This was a testament to hard work and dedication, and what can be achieved when those two elements are combined.

Chuck Hayes put in the time and effort. And tonight, the world took notice.

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

I can’t say how pleased I am for someone like Chuck. That’s just terrific for a guy like that and the way he works and the things he’s done. I can’t emphasize enough the improvement he has made offensively to be more than just a screener. He’s becoming a great passer – you saw that tonight. It’s just a pleasure to watch a guy like that and his work ethic and everything he does. It’s really terrific. It’s like Kyle and Chuck were saying: it’s Chuck and Kyle, and Oscar (Robertson) and LeBron (James) – those are the guys who get triple-doubles.

But it was just a good win for us. That’s all we can do with 10 games to go: we can only win our games. Everybody was talking about Memphis winning tonight. We can’t worry about that. You can only win your games because that’s the only way we’re going to get there. We did what we had to do tonight and now we have to go on the road again… We started this thing by going on the road and winning, and that’s what we’re going to have to continue to do.

(on Kyle Lowry): He’s one of the smarter guys I’ve been around, especially at the point, because he understands the strengths of all his teammates and he will run things geared to them. That’s the thing I really appreciate about him because a lot of times we’ll be in a huddle during a timeout and I’m thinking, ok, we’re going to run this and he’ll always come up with a suggestion and 75 percent of the time I go with it because it’s a good play. He’s just grown so much… You can’t say enough about Kyle and Chuck and what they’ve done to lead this team to this point.

Since the All Star break we’ve lost three games and two were 3-point games on the road and then San Antonio, which was close right to the last minute. Losing that game after losing on the road just before that, we responded, won some close games, beat some good teams – that’s what we can do. And I told them: we started this on the road and now we’ve got to go on the road and win – that’s what we have to do to keep this going. Memphis did it tonight – that’s what we have to do.

(On the game) “It was a good win. That's a tough game to play because they (Warriors) keep coming up and down the court and coming at you and you start thinking you have to shoot it quick too. All we talked about was getting some stops which was hard to do because if we get some stops we can get some separation. If we have patience in the 2nd half, we don't have to shoot it quick. If we don't have a break or are running down the court looking for a 3 (pointer) we can just run our offense. 2nd half I felt we did a really nice job with that.

CHUCK HAYES

(On getting his triple-double) “That was the hardest point of my life. I felt like I was stuck at 9 (points) for like two day but I'm happy I got the win. The fan support was great. The guys were really cheering me on for this achievement and once it was over, it was like the biggest relief that I've had in a long time.”

Honestly, inside I am jumping for joy. I am so juiced inside… It’s a great achievement. I’m excited. It’s something you read about and something you see the great stars do – never in a million years did I think I would get it but I did.

(on his offensive improvement): Over the past two years, my team needed me and the team needed me to do that just to be aggressive. If I can’t score, try to get a foul on the big men because more than likely I’ll be guarding their best low-post player, and just be a threat, be an influence out there on the offensive end so they can respect you down there underneath the basket.

(on this homestand): We knew this 6-game homestand was huge for us. Before this 6-game homestand we were playing good basketball. We had a tough loss against Phoenix and the Clippers but we knew that just meant we had to beat some good teams in Boston, Utah and Phoenix. 5-1 was the worst we could do, 6-0 would have been great, but we’ll take the 5-1 homestand and now that same mentality we’ve had on the road all year long, we have to take it here on this 3-game road trip. It’d be great to win all three. We’re playing to win all three.

KYLE LOWRY

(who gets the next triple double?): It don’t matter who’s next as long as we’re winning games.

(On the Rockets mixing in running into their offense) “I think what we're trying to do is to try to run the ball and mix in getting the ball inside to (Luis) Scola and getting the ball in our sets. We definitely did a good job. I think of mixing it up. We ran it effectively and Courtney (lee) and Kevin (Martin) played awesome tonight and Scola attracted double teams that he does and scores the way he does. We played very well off of him tonight.”

(On the Rockets playing well to finish the home stand) “ San Antonio is the best team in the league and that game was a heartbreaking game. We came back and fought but we finished this home stand on a very positive note. We are putting ourselves in a position of being four games over .500 and this home stand has been great for us. We've also had some time to get practices in and got some new guys involved.”

LUIS SCOLA

(On the team's play) “We are playing great. Maybe it is a little late, we don't know. We are about to find out but we are playing great and we are trying to finish the season strong. I felt much better today versus the last game. I am feeling better.”

COURTNEY LEE

(On getting defensive stops) “That's one thing that coach emphasized today in the meeting. He said the team that's going to win is the one that is going to get down and get stops. We were able to do that tonight. A couple guys on our team had it rolling, guys coming in still had it rolling and we were able to take away some of their (Warriors) easy looks. So, like I said, coach said whoever got stops was going to win the game.”

(On Chuck Hayes' first triple-double) “That's it. He's a monster. I'm happy for him. He went out there and played hard. Chuck plays hard every night so when a guy like that can get a triple-double, all you can do is congratulate him and be happy for him.”

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS COACH KEITH SMART

(On the Rockets) “ Houston plays as a team without any egos. They work hard and they play hard. Chuck Hayes is a perfect example of their team and how they play. He understands the team concept of the game so well. It was great to see their crowd get behind him when he was going for the triple-double. Everyone was with him and they are very proud of the type player he is.”

(On the Warriors) “We are trying to develop and build things as a team. This is a painful time we are in. Houston is fighting for a playoff spot. We’re obviously not going to any dance this season. A young team has to learn to step up their game as a team not an individual. Houston doesn’t care about scoring, but they are all about the team.”

DORELL WRIGHT

(On the game) “It’s okay (his career high) but it’s a team game and we lost. We didn’t do what we wanted to do. There are no lessons learned, it’s just basketball. We are a young team and we just need to play hard and compete. It’s our ultimate goal to get into the playoffs. You could see how hard Houston was playing as they are still fighting for the eighth seed.”

MONTA ELLIS

(On the team’s play) “Our back is against the wall and we need to find a way to win. We’ll play it out and see what happens. We need to grind it out, play together and play smart and stay together as a team.”

STEPHEN CURRY

(On Kevin Martin) “Kevin Martin is really good at what he does. He knows how to draw fouls and he is a great player. I can always learn some things from him.”

(On the tough road trip) “That’s putting it lightly. Houston was fighting for the last spot and they are playing well. We envisioned that for our team but it didn’t happen. We need to keep playing hard and not take losing lightly.”

NOTES

The Rockets raced to a 131-112 victory tonight over the Warriors, winning for the fifth consecutive time to match their longest winning streak of the season (five in a row: 12/17/10-12/27/10, 2/22/11-3/1/11 and 3/14/11-3/23/11).

Houston set season highs of 131 points and 35 assists tonight, surpassing a 129-point outing at Minnesota (1/24/11) and 33 assists vs. New Jersey (2/26/11).

The Rockets were 46-of-91 (.505) from the floor and 12-of-26 (.462) from beyond the arc tonight. Houston is now 11-0 this season when reaching the .500 mark from the field and 16-5 when hitting 10 or more 3-pointers in a game.

Houston netted 66 first-half points and followed that up with 65 second-half points tonight. The Rockets have now hit the 60-point mark in a half 29 times in 2010-11. Houston posted a total of 30 such halves over the past two seasons combined (12 in 2008-09 and 18 in 2009-10).

The Rockets placed all five starters in double-figure scoring tonight. Houston has now put all five starters in double-digit scoring five times this season (Rockets record: 4-1).

Houston had three players with at least a double-double tonight, which was the first time that has occurred this season. The Rockets have now had at least two players with a double-double in each of the last three straight games. Houston had a total of just four such outings in the first 69 games of the season.

Tonight marked the first time in team history that two different Rockets have recorded a triple-double in consecutive games. Kyle Lowry vs. Utah (3/20/11) and Hayes tonight.

Kevin Martin totaled 34 points (12-21 FG, 4-7 3FG, 6-6 FT) and two steals tonight. Martin recorded at least 20 points in all of the six outings of Houston’s season-long, six-game homestand. His season-best stands at eight consecutive games of 20 or more points (12/15/10-12/31/10).

Courtney Lee scored a season-high 25 points (10-16 FG, 5-8 3FG), surpassing his 23-point effort (9-15 FG, 4-4 FT) vs. Minnesota (2/8/11). Lee also tied his career best in 3-pointers made at five (done three times before: last on 2/14/11 vs. Denver).

Luis Scola recorded 20 points (7-16 FG, 6-6 FT) and 10 rebounds, notching his 16th double-double on the season.

Chuck Hayes posted the first triple-double of his career tonight with 13 points (5-11 FG), 14 rebounds and a career-high 11 assists (prev. high: eight on 3/1/10 vs. Toronto).

Kyle Lowry finished with 13 points (6-8 FT) and 12 assists tonight. Coming off the first triple-double of his career (28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) vs. Utah (3/20/11), Lowry has reached 10-plus assists in consecutive games three times in his career (all this season). He also had 10 assists vs. the L.A. Lakers (12/1/10) and 12 dimes at Memphis (12/3/10), as well as 11 assists at Portland (3/1/11) and 11 helpers at the L.A. Clippers (3/2/11).

Dorell Wright netted a career-high 34 points (14-21 FG, 3-6 3FG), six assists, five boards and three steals tonight. He also led the Warriors with 24 points (10-19 FG) in the last game at Houston (11/24/10).

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