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Tuesday August 31, 2010 2:08 PM

What's Up, Chuck?


Q&A with the Rockets' defensive master Chuck Hayes

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - With the start of Rockets training camp less than a month away, the Toyota Center practice court is the place to be as players start ramping up the intensity level in an effort to make sure their games are good to go. You see a sharper focus during the various training drills players perform and the competition taking place during the daily scrimmages is certainly heating up as well.

So with the guys getting ready for the 2010-11 season, it's time for us to do our part as well. And what better way to do so than to catch up with the various members of the team to find out what they've been up to this summer? Today Rockets.com sat down with defensive ace and fan favorite Chuck Hayes.

JCF: So what have you been up to this summer?

CH: The best thing I did was I took my son on a father-son trip to Disneyland. We went to Disneyland and he wore me out.

Outside of that I worked out, which is what’s expected and required, went home to California to be with family and that’s about it.

JCF: What was your son’s favorite ride?

CH: The Nemo ride. He made me go on it twice. Then there was a Roger Rabbit ride he liked and an airplane one, too. But the submarine Nemo ride was just a jaw-dropping ride to him.

JCF: Well you mentioned how working out has been a big part of your summer and it’s obvious just by looking at you that’s been the case. Even back in mid-July during summer league in Vegas, everyone was commenting on how great you looked and that certainly rings even truer today.

CH: People ask me what I did and I tell them: I just did something everyday; from tennis, to racquetball and I even did a little bit of golf. I just made sure I did something agility-wise every day. I was just trying to find the kid in me; like today we’re going over to Minute Maid Park to take batting practice and have some fun.

I also changed my diet a little bit but really the only thing I changed was I stopped eating so late because when you eat so late it just sits on you until the next day. It slows you down, especially when you have to get up early. As a kid, man, in high school I could eat a Double Whopper and still go out and get 30. But now if I eat that I’m not even good for 30 seconds.

JCF: I know you’ve been working out with Yao Ming some and one of the things he said last week is that he now has to respect your shot on the offensive end. Does this mean we’re going to see a somewhat different side of Chuck Hayes this season?

CH: He said he has to defend my shot but it's not like I’m going out too far (laughs). I’m just trying to use my quickness and shoot the occasional jump shot in the paint – that’s a high percentage shot. I just have to get it over the trees and Yao is the tallest tree in the league. So not only am I helping him out, but he’s helping me out as far as finishing and shooting over tall defenders.

JCF: Well, offensive efficiency aside, we all know defense is your bread and butter. What is your defensive philosophy, both from an individual and a team standpoint?

CH: Well individually I have to kind of be like a free safety or a quarterback. It’s my job to talk to the team on the defensive end. I have to run my mouth and make sure everybody is in the right spot while also controlling my man, too, because more than likely I’m going to be guarding the key offensive post threat.

As a team, we have to hold each other accountable. We have to commit ourselves and really want to do it. With Yao back, it’s great to have him, but it starts with your man first – you can’t always just depend upon the big guy because he may be late or he can’t afford to be in foul trouble. So as a team we have to hold each other accountable and have to want to make stops.

JCF: I suspect most basketball people wouldn’t point to guys like you and Shane Battier and say, “That’s the prototype for what an NBA shut-down defender should look like.” And yet you’re two of the best this league has to offer in terms of defensive impact. So I’m curious – what do you think is more important on the defensive end: physical ability or the mental aspect of team defensive principles?

CH: It’s all mental. Physical is great, don’t get me wrong. I mean me and Shane are going to be out-jumped by every guy we go against. But knowing the game, doing your homework, reading the scouting report, watching tape, knowing opposing personnel and their preferences – you do all that and I guarantee you’ll have an advantage mentally of knowing what your guy will do and how you can contain him. It’s good to have physical attributes as far as being able to run and jump and having foot speed, but for Shane and myself the mental side is so important which is why we always do our homework days before the game.

JCF: So let’s talk about what you think this roster can accomplish defensively as a team. There was some slippage last year for obvious reasons and it’s been a point of emphasis all offseason talking about how important it is for you guys to get back to being a top-10 defensive team. What do you think this club is capable of on that end of the floor?

CH: I think we can be a top-5 defensive team easily.

JCF: What makes you say that?

CH: It’s all about the guys we have here and how hard we play. We’ve got guys who can defend and with Yao down there, he’s kind of like a safety net. Sometimes we use him as a crutch and we obviously can’t do that and I’m surely early on we’ll have nights when we’re good and others when we won’t be. But I think we can put it together. Brad Miller is an unselfish player. Patrick Patterson is a real humble and willing-to-listen rookie – he doesn’t have an ego. Then you throw in Yao who is probably the most unselfish superstar out there. I think the pieces are all there. We don’t have any egos in this locker room. Nobody thinks they’re better than anyone else. And that’s a big key to playing good team defense.

JCF: What did you think about what went down in Miami this summer?

CH: (laughs) Hey, I guess I was shocked as much as everyone else. I didn’t think LeBron would go that route, but he did and he has his reasons so I just wish him the best of luck.

JCF: Some Hall of Famers like Jordan, Bird and Magic mentioned that they never would have gone that route because they wanted to beat each other far more than teaming up to take on the rest of the league. Judging from your reaction I get the feeling you’re of a similar mindset.

CH: I mean, I can see both sides. I’m more in favor of the older guys but I can relate to LeBron, too. I mean it’s hard to win in this league. He tried it on his own and now he’s teaming up with two All-Stars. That’s unheard of but, again, it just opens up the eyes of everyone else in the league and, hey, if he needs another All-Star or bona fide superstar in order to win one, then go team up. But with my competitive nature I’m more in favor of what Jordan and Johnson said.

JCF: Do you feel like Miami is the clear favorite right now?

CH: No. I still say the Lakers but even out of the East I still think Boston has to be the favorite because they’re proven.

JCF: Last question – and I’ll admit ahead of time that this is completely random: What is the characteristic that you admire most in others?

CH: Laughter. I just think laughing is healthy – all the smiling and having a good time. Enjoy the moment. I’ll do whatever has to be done to get a good laugh. Who doesn’t like to laugh?

JCF: It makes the world a better place.

CH: Man, everybody and everything would be greater if we just laughed more.

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