During the Rockets game last night, Lee and I constantly exchanged texts about how Chuck Hayes was killing us on offense and that his defense (while good) was not anywhere close to being enough to make up for his uselessness at the scoring end. The Rockets did manage to escape with a 104-96 victory in Madison Square Garden, but the score and pretty much everything else can be very deceiving.
Especially if you let the Comicle be your eyes and ears for what happened.
The Rockets had to try something else, never imagining any change could so dramatically change the game.
They put Chuck Hayes on Stoudemire and gave him almost no help. It was as if they turned the lights off and jammed a dagger into the ball.
Yeah, because the Knicks' ability to miss free throws, take errant shots and routinely miss put-back layups was all because Chuck Hayes mentally conjured up a force-field around the basket. Ummm, no. It really was not that simple or that clear-cut. Hayes, while better than normal, was not "taking over the game" as Bill Worrell said at some point in the fourth quarter - thus making me want to find a stash of peyote so I could agree with him.
Look, as I've said for many years: I like you Chuck Hayes, but I like winning more. We've reached the point where letting Chuck play is becoming directly related to the Rockets not winning basketball games. The offense has a very nice flow and rhythm to it when Brad Miller, Luis Scola, Jordan Hill, Yao Ming and even Jared Jeffries are in the game. The moment Chuck steps onto the floor - that all stops. Passing... off-the-ball movement... open lanes... it all disappears. This is not a coincidence. And let's not talk about Hayes' shooting habits or free throws.
Also, Chuck Hayes is to be treated like Dante playing hockey on the roof in Clerks:
"don't pass to this guy, he sucks!"
Granted, Chuck is well above average on the other end of the court and he makes things difficult for the opposition. At the same time, any team with a moderately athletic 4 or 5 does not care about Chuck's lower body strength or ability to slide his feet. They simply grab the rebound before it gets to Chuck and dunk it over his 6'5" head. The Knicks tried to do this last night, but they are bad at many things, thus giving the appearance that Chuck's defense was really good. Yes, Amare's stats were better when Brad Miller was guarding him......... but he simply missed a ton of layups when Chuck was in. To give 100% of the credit to Hayes for being a super awesome defender is not only short-sighted but negligent. Alas, this is exactly what Rick Adelman is going to do. Meaning that Jordan Hill (a better player overall) will continue to be chained to the bench. This is not a good thing.
I also do not want to hear that Chuck's +/- ratio was "+9". To immediately rebut that stat, Jordan Hill was +12, but he did not get a similarly glowing review by Comicle editors. If anything the real defensive star of the game was Roger Mason, Jr. The Knicks were scoring at will... until Mason entered the game and started flinging bricks from all directions. This was greatly appreciated by me. It also had nothing to do with Chuck Hayes.
Last night Chuck played better than he normally does, but I refuse to allow that to blur how mediocre he's been overall. I'm just hoping this does not cost us a win or two when Chuck is in the game attempting to make a free throw when it matters.
(Hell, Chuck wasn't even noticeable enough to Getty Images to take a photo I can use for this post!)