Chuck Hayes was all smiles in his return to Sacramento on Friday night.
Kings forward/center Chuck Hayes made his return to Sacramento on Friday night.
Chuck Hayes is greeted by Kings Assistant General Manager and former Kings forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim at the Sacramento International Airport.
SACRAMENTO, CA - Kings forward/center Chuck Hayes made his return to Sacramento on Friday night, concluding an emotional eight day roller coaster.
"It feels good, it's been a long week," Hayes said, speaking exclusively to News10 at the Sacramento International Airport as he arrived from his home in Houston. "I'm just happy I'm here and happy I'm healthy."
Hayes was met at the airport by Kings Assistant General Manager Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who greeted him with a hug.
The 28-year-old Modesto native agreed in principal on Thursday night to renew his contract with the Kings - a four year, $22.3 million deal. On Dec. 15, the Kings medical staff discovered a heart abnormality from his physical. Last Monday, the team voided his initial four year, $21.3 million contract signed on Dec. 9.
"It was a weird chain of events - just finishing Media Day (on Thursday), getting through the day, I was excited to scrimmage in front of the fans (that night)," Hayes said. "They hit me with the news and every day after that was just, like bad news until Thursday morning.
"I was more scared because I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know what was wrong with me. The doctors said the found some dysfunctional abnormality in my heart, but I felt fine."
After dealing with the possibility that his life could be in jeopardy, let alone the future of his NBA career, Hayes was sent by the Kings to the Cleveland Clinic for further testing on Wednesday. After 11 hours at the clinic, it was discovered that Hayes was the victim of an enlarged heart - some inflammation in the sac surrounding the heart.
That second opinion allowed Hayes to resume his NBA career.
"I guess I'm a big guy and I have a big heart, that's all it is - it's different from the average guy," he said. "I wanted to cry but my mother was there to do all the crying for me. Just to hear that I could play again, it was great news. It will make Christmas a whole lot better.
"You know, it was a rough week but the last 24 hours has been pretty good," he said.
Through it all, Hayes said he didn't hold any hard feelings against the Kings organization, in fact, he felt the organization stood with him the entire way.
"For them to recommend the Cleveland Clinic, for them to catch this abnormality and their level of concern for my health, it spoke volumes about the Kings as an organization beyond basketball," Hayes said.
Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie issued a statement on Friday night on the journey Hayes has gone through:
"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 year. I closing, I wan to to wish everyone a wonderful holiday with their families, friends, and loved ones, and to all a good night."
Hayes rejoined the team on Saturday morning in their final practice before opening the season on Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kings head coach Paul Westphal announced Friday afternoon that Hayes will be in the starting lineup in Monday's season opener.
By Sean Cunningham, SCunningham@News10.net