HANG TIME TEXAS, Y’ALL – These are busy, frantic times in the King-dom of Sacramento.
For a minute or two, try to forget all of the problems in trying to get a new arena and the rumors that the franchise is still headed to Anaheim. For now, there are other immediate concerns:
First off, how to replace forward/center Chuck Hayes, whose free agent contract was voided when a physical exam revealed a heart abnormality?
Matt Kawahara and Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee had the news:
A projected starter who signed a four-year, $21.3 million free-agent contract Dec. 9, Hayes was expected to play a key role in the Kings’ offense and serve as a physical, vocal presence on defense.
“We’re not going to be able to replace him,” Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie told The Bee on Monday afternoon. “He was one of the best defensive frontcourt players in the league and a really unique player we thought would facilitate some offense.
“We’ll take a look at what we can do, but it’s not going to be the same.”In a statement released Monday, Petrie said notifying Hayes of the failed physical was “one of the most heartbreaking moments of my professional or personal life.”
Hayes has undergone further testing on his heart, but specifics about his condition have not been released. Messages left for Hayes’ agent Monday were not returned.
Monday evening, Hayes posted to his Twitter account, “Thank you everyone for your prayers and support, taking the next step to get healthy and back on the court, much love.”
Perhaps fortunate for the Kings front office is the fact that one of their own, who played in Sacramento last season, is still out there on the free agent leftover pile.
As the Kings look for ways to replace Hayes, among the available free-agent big men is Samuel Dalembert, who played last season in Sacramento.Asked about the possibility of bringing back Dalembert, Petrie said: “We’ve stayed in touch with him periodically along the way. We’ll see what develops here in the next few days and go from there.”
While scrambling to fill cracks in the immediate future, the Kings would be wise to take time out to honor their past in the aftermath of Peja Stojakovic’s calling it a career by hanging his retired jersey from the rafters.
As Victor Contreras of the Bee points out, those 7 1/2 seasons that Peja spent in Sacramento were special and usually spent performing at a very high level.
He goes out as one of Sacramento’s all-time favorite Kings, a player whose No. 16 should hang from the Power Balance Pavilion rafters soon alongside the jerseys of former teammates Chris Webber (No. 4) and Vlade Divac (No. 21).
Stojakovic was the stubbly, baby-faced assassin on the Kings’ original Fab Five. Webber was the muscle inside, Jason Williams thrilled crowds with no-look passes, Divac played point-center, and Doug Christie supplied the defense.
But it was Stojakovic who killed teams from beyond the arc. He was in constant motion, flowing along the baseline like a shark, scoring on back-door feeds and hitting threes from the corner.
Worth remembering also? Peja’s fourth place finish in the 2003-04 MVP voting (24.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 48% 3-point shooting) was just as high as Webber ever finished in his best season of 2000-01 (27.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 4.2).