Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's more than preseason game at the No-Name Arena

Dec. 20, 2011

The Sacramento Kings meet the visiting Golden State Warriors tonight at the No-Name Arena, also formerly known as Arco Arena and never truly known as Power Balance Pavilion.

Yet, the lone Kings' preseason home game likely will be different than any other. This will be the first time Kings fans return to the No-Name Arena since many of them left following the final home game of the 2010-11 season believing the franchise was headed to Anaheim.

Thanks to the efforts of many, including Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the City is attempting to land financing for the construction of a new downtown arena to house the Kings.

That proposition remains a work in progress. However, the Kings are here for the moment and their fan base likely will be highly enthusiastic (read: wild as hell) for tonight's contest as well as next Monday's season and home opener against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Kings are attempting to fast-forward the compilation of their team in the midst of the makeshift post-lockout training camp and preseason.

Sacramento's plans took a major hit this week when free-agent signee Chuck Hayes failed his physical due to a heart abnormality. The Kings subsequently voided his reported four-year/$21 million contract.

Said President Geoff Petrie, "(Monday) morning, in one of the most heartbreaking moments of my professional or personal life, Chuck Hayes was notified that he failed his physical exam with the Sacramento Kings. Subsequent to that, the contract signed on Dec. 9 has been voided. At Chuck's request, we will have no further comment at this time."

Management informed the team of the situation following Monday afternoon's practice. Coach Paul Westphal's eyes displayed the hurt he felt by the loss of more than just another player.

Hayes, a beast of a man at 6-foot-6, 238 pounds, was expected to bring mental and physical toughness as he had for six seasons with the Houston Rockets. Hayes already had taken a leadership role during his brief time with the Kings.

Westphal said, 'Hayes already had established himself as what you are looking for a man who would give everything of himself for the team and of himself.

The Kings likely will pursue free-agent center Samuel Dalembert in hopes of having him rejoin the crew and provide support in the middle. Suffice to say acquiring Dalembert has become more important and costly with Hayes' inability to play.

Most importantly, Hayes, who had signed the most lucrative deal of his career, now has neither the contract nor a job. Now, he has the questions of how to deal with the heart abnormality and an uncertain athletic future.

All that in a week. Let's hope this serves as a massive lesson to a group of primarily young group of young Kings how fragile their careers and lives are.

Most of the Kings are so young, they did not get the opportunity to play with former Kings shooter extraordinaire Peja Stojakovic.

Stojakovic retired Monday primarily because of back and neck problems at 34. He'd still be, if healthy, the best shooter on most teams.

Stojakovic answered his phone Monday and said, "I feel good physically and about my decision."

He and his family are living in New Orleans, "because the kids really like the area and we're comfortable here."

Stojakovic easily was one of the easiest guys to cover during my stints working the league. He was honest and always available for a comment. As a journalist, one can't ask for more.

Jimmer Fredette looks capable of one day challenging Stojakovic, Eddie Johnson, Jerry Lucas and Oscar Robertson as one of the Kings' best shooters. What an immediate review of Fredette's game shows is a need to stop leaving his feet 35-to-40 from the basket.

Fredette appears to be the real deal because of his shooting prowess, ballhandling and toughness. We'll see.

Westphal said Monday rookie guards Fredette and Isaiah Thomas are two of the more heady players on the team.

High praise for two players a week into their professional careers.

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