Is Chuck Hayes Worth His Quote?

Every team has a player who embodies its soul; its essence and make up. This doesn’t have to be the best player, a supreme talented, or the most tenured, but every team has one guy who symbolizes a fundamental word that comes to mind when that team’s nickname arises in conversation. Tim Duncan is the Spurs: slow, methodic, boring, efficient, consistent. Kendrick Perkins was the Celtics: intimidating, rugged, fearless, confident.

Determined, imperfect, ambitious, downtrodden. These words describe Chuck Hayes. Chuck Hayes is the Houston Rockets.

To make things timely, the beloved Hayes is a free agent, meaning there’s a decent chance he’s already played his last game as a Rocket—but is re-signing him a no-brainer? Does it even qualify as probable? The words used to describe both Hayes and the Rockets organization are both positive and negative, creating the reasonable question of whether or not Hayes represents the type of team Houston wants to be, and whether or not that type of team is capable of snaking its way through postseason roadblocks year after year. Hayes is the league’s everyman, the fan favorite of fan favorites. People/paying customers will always hold a special place in their hearts for gritty players who don’t complain and prove triumphant when facing enormous odds and obstacles, and nobody exemplifies that more than Hayes. His work ethic and compliant attitude make him a coach’s dream, and as a 6’6″ center who faces a nightly uphill battle no matter the opponent, he’s actually fared quite well for himself.

It’s kinda cool to have guys like that on your team, who you know won’t give up, who will valiantly fight until the 48th minute. But after a while doesn’t it get tiresome watching them come up short just enough times to cause serious heartbreak in the end? Is rooting for high character hustlers who lose more often than win more fun than rooting for “I make everything look easier than breathing” villains who win more often than lose? Winning, in the end, means more than anything else. It’s the penthouse factor that at the end of the year, season, and day, hovers above all else.

To believe Hayes can’t play in the league is incorrect. Ask any front line player currently signed to a contender if he’d welcome Hayes as a complimentary piece and he’d surely agree, citing a major reduction in workload as a primary reason. On the opposite side of the spectrum, players who set phenomenal examples like Hayes look very attractive to general managers sitting at the helm of young, inexperienced, awful teams, dragging themselves through an arduous rebuilding process. Teams like Minnesota (reuniting him with Rick Adelman), Golden State, Boston, or Los Angeles would be a snug fit. They’re means are different, but they share an end: Improving as a team. The good teams would use him as an extra grappling hook, helping steady themselves as they cling to the top of the mountain. The other would employ him as a Nepalese Sherpa guiding them through the initial, upward hike.

On a middling team like Houston, that’s slowly regressing while simultaneously looking to get over a hump they’ve now been facing for a few years, Hayes is an ornament. Good to have around, a positive force on your side, but now that he’s been overly exposed to the world as an undervalued player, ironically, his stock has gone down. Chuck Hayes can do one thing at an elite level (defend in the low post), and even in that area he’s yet to prove he can do it for over 35 minutes a night on a consistent basis. Come the new season, after he signs the first guaranteed long term contract of his career, Hayes’ price tag won’t accurately reflect his production. For the wrong team—and I believe Houston falls in this category—he’ll have become a distorted commodity. To re-sign him would be a stagnant move; it would tie up money in a player who can only go so far as to help a team win basketball games. Hayes isn’t the complacent type, but he has a clear as night ceiling hanging above his head in regards to his ability, and right now the Rockets are stacking themselves with players capable of making quick improvements.

“If a team wants to win, pick up Hayes. He does all the intangible things that don’t appear on the stat sheet. Every team needs a player of his caliber.”

Nothing against Chuck Hayes, but this statement, made by his agent Calvin Andrews, is ludicrous. Hayes excels in doing the little things that have long been overlooked by casual NBA observers. But to say he’s synonymous with winning basketball games might be a slight overstatement. Yes there are many things that occur in basketball which don’t show up on a stat sheet (the sightless statistic is firmly in vogue right now, at a convenient time for Hayes to enter free agency), but let’s not discount all the things that do. The things Chuck Hayes isn’t great at, like shooting, dribbling, and passing.

Chuck Hayes, the person, is a winner in my book, as he should be in everyone who’s ever seen him grab a rebound. Can the same be said about Chuck Hayes, the player?

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

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