When the Memphis Grizzlies visited the Toronto Raptors recently, Head Coach Dwane Casey called on his veteran center Chuck Hayes to come in at the end of the second quarter and give the burly Zach Randolph the business. It wasn’t the first time Casey has called on Hayes to make an impact in short minutes and it won’t be the last. It’s a role Hayes has embraced in Toronto and the 30-year-old 6’6 center knows how to ruin the day for one of his fellow big men.
“My job is to defend,” Hayes said. “If they have a low post player that is getting a lot of easy buckets and getting our guys in foul trouble, my job is to come in there and kind of slow him down and give him a different look.”
Randolph had 12 first half points against Toronto, but only 4 more points the rest of the way after experiencing the flow disrupting influence of Hayes.
Casey likes Hayes ‘old man strength’ and while Hayes is firmly anchored below the rim at both ends of the court, he is virtually unmovable and shows a surprising level of quickness when showing out to the top of the key and getting back to disrupt passes into the post. Hayes’ non-stop motion is beyond annoying and he has grabbed an improbable 24.2 percent of available defensive rebounds. For a player that is shorter than most of the forwards on the court, he is a surprisingly effective defensive center.
“It’s just knowing your opponent and being prepared,” Hayes said. “Do your homework early and put yourself in a position to come out on the better end.”
An 8-year veteran, Hayes has been a starter in the NBA and in Toronto, he is playing the fewest minutes of his career. Never much of an offensive threat, Hayes is averaging 2.1 points on 2.1 shots in under 12 minutes per game. For the most part, it’s been very short minutes to solve specific matchup problems, but after a couple of years in Sacramento, Hayes isn’t complaining.
“I have to do whatever a team needs me to do. Whatever Coach asks of me, that is what I am going to do,” Hayes said. “We have been on the bad side in Sacramento. Things wasn’t the greatest as far as racking up wins, so when you are on a team that is winning, you are willing to sacrifice anything.”
Hayes likes the team situation in Toronto as well and is ready to be the veteran mentor and short-minutes impact player if that means another shot at the postseason.
“That’s my job, to be a mentor to these guys, to be a veteran to the young players,” Hayes said. “This is a great locker room. It reminds me a lot of my Houston days, being with a great bunch of guys, workers, everybody’s ego is left at the door. It makes the working environment a whole lot better.
“You love to play basketball, but towards the end of your career, as many times as you can, you try to be on a winning team. It’s the opportunity to make the playoffs, every game is magnified, every possession is cherished, it’s a great feeling.”
Hayes echoes the comments made by all of the players Toronto received from Sacramento in December, they are all willing to do anything to be a part of a winning team. Hayes will sit for several games in a row and may only get a couple of minutes or play an entire quarter if Casey needs him and the Raptors get the same professional effort every time. A true momentum changer, Hayes can still alter the fortunes of a team in few short minutes when things are going wrong in the post.
Also check out:
Toronto Raptors Greivis Vasquez On Free Agency
“We are all playing a particular role,” Vasquez said. “Whether we like it or not, we have to apply our role on the court and I have a role right now to organize the team and run the second unit. When I am hot, I may close the game with Kyle (Lowry). Right now, I do not want to go outside of my role because it will not look good on me and I don’t want to because we are winning the right way.”