With Yao Ming out last year, the 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes was forced to slide to the five for the Rockets, becoming the shortest starting center in league history.
With the Great Wall set to return, even for a limited amount of time, the Chuckwagon is rolling back to the power forward position.
“I’ve been a four my whole life,” said Hayes. “From playing in little rec leagues, high school, college and even in the pros. Last year, they needed me to play center and I did, but this year I’m going back to my natural position and like I said, it’s more natural.”
Hayes, entering his 6th NBA season, has established himself as a terrific post defender — smart, polished and very difficult for opponents to get around. Much like Shane Battier, Chuck knows a thing or two about great defense and he doesn’t think the time cap on Yao’s minutes nor the changed roster should keep the Rockets from making a return to being one of the better defensive teams.
“We can definitely get back defensively,” said Hayes. “We have the personnel to do it. All we have to do is commit to it — for a full game, for a full length of time. Over time, throughout the course of the season it becomes second nature to us. We’ll get to a point where we’ll rely on our defense more than our offense.”
Hayes says the team is making progress, but it won’t happen overnight.
“We’re getting it,” said Hayes. “But that’s what training camp is for — to work out the kinks, pick up the chemistry, get on the same page with you and your teammates. Hopefully by the middle of the regular season, that’s when we’ll really get together and be clicking on all cylinders.”