A Christmas miracle: Kings emotional following return of Chuck Hayes
He was only a Sacramento King for five days, but Chuck Hayes’ impact was immediate.
“Chuck was that veteran leader on this team,” said teammate DeMarcus Cousins following Friday’s practice at the Kings training facility in Natomas. “Chuck was basically the voice on this team, the most experience, you know what I’m saying? So that’s what we all looked up to.”
When Hayes’ contract was voided Monday following a failed physical, Cousins and his teammates prayed and hoped for the best. And though Hayes was no longer officially part of the team, the Kings continued to honor him by displaying his jersey in the locker room the following day.
“I even asked coach if we could put (Chuck’s) jersey number on our jerseys,” said Cousins. “But something about the league won’t allow (it).”
Despite the setback, they still managed to pay respect to the veteran big man in other ways.
“Usually when the team gets together to go out before a game” Head Coach Paul Westphal began. “To go out after a timeout, to go out after practice – they get their hands together. They usually say something like ‘defense’ or ‘go Kings’.
“You know what they’ve been saying?” Westphal continued, rhetorically asking. “Since the day he left: Chuck. To remind everybody what he brought to this team and the attitude you have to bring to work every day. That really says it all.”
Westphal says he’s kept in touch with Hayes following yesterday’s news through text messages. And though the Modesto native missed the last eight days of training camp and preseason, Westphal expects him to start alongside Cousins in the home opener against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It certainly touched everybody emotionally,” said Westphal. “I mean, we’ve known Chuck less than two weeks as being part of what’s going on here and he made a big impression.”
As if it wasn’t already, Monday night couldn’t get any more emotional.
Geoff Petrie releases heartfelt statement regarding Hayes
The Kings President of Basketball Operations issued the following statement regarding the situation with Hayes late Friday evening:
“It is a profound pleasure to announce the signing of Chuck Hayes to a new multi-year contract. Chuck’s abilities and potential contribution have been previously described in great detail and remain unchanged. There is a much larger human story contained in the ongoing series of events which have encompassed the last eight days that go beyond basketball. It should be embraced. Some undoubtedly will seek to find some element of failure in this. There is no failure here. Chuck’s story and return has been so much more about caring, support, hope, faith, prayer, and a livable redemption. These values represent a larger part of the oxygen of life. The travails and then the triumph of the human spirit is what transpired here. There should be inspiration in this for everyone, especially at this time of the year. In closing, I want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday with their families, friends, and loved ones, and to all a good night.”
Petrie and Hayes will address media tomorrow morning at the Kings training facility before the team’s final practice, leading up to Monday’s home opener at Power Balance Pavilion.
Additional practice notes from Friday, December 23rd
- Westphal thinks Tyreke Evans had his best practice of training camp on Friday. What stood out? “He’s really focused on defense. He’s really finding guys when he drives and he’s still being aggressive because we never want to take away his strength. He’s understanding how to pick his spots and we’re doing a better job of learning where we’re supposed to be when he drives.”
- After being limited yesterday, John Salmons fully participated in Friday’s practice. If all goes according to plan, Westphal would like to start Salmons on Monday. “I thought he was terrific out there today. He’s probably 80 percent. But assuming he doesn’t regress tomorrow, it was a great sign to have him out there going 80 percent and he’s fitting right in.”
- Cousins was questionable for Friday’s practice after banging his knee the other day. But he fully participated in the workout session with no trouble. He tipped his hat to the Kings training staff for getting him ready. “Yeah I’m a little banged up, but got some good treatment from our great staff, who did a lot of good work, and I’m back.”