Chuck Hayes And A Snakebitten And/Or Bumbling Franchise

Chuck Hayes' agent Calvin Andrews announced today that the Cleveland Clinic -- considered one of the top four medical facilities in the country -- has cleared the forward for action, and denied that Chuck has a heart problem. According to the statement, the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic told Hayes that he can continue to play pro basketball "without any concerns." That's fairly definitive. Nothing fuzzy about it.

The initial stress echo test that showed an abnormality was reported on Wednesday, December 14. Reports that further tests were coming back clean circulated Friday and Saturday. But the Kings voided Hayes' contract on Monday. By Wednesday, Ailene Voisin was reporting the specific diagnosis that doctors had hung on Chuck. (I'll let you guess from which end of the spectrum her sources came.) Now, on Thursday, Hayes says he's cleared and Sam Amick is quoting Chuck's agent as saying the Kings have a "leg up" in signing him, though a decision may not come from Hayes until Monday.

What the Funderburke?

Given the Cleveland Clinic's diagnosis (or lack thereof) and Hayes' obvious intention of playing, I hope to Heavens the Kings immediately re-offer that four-year, $21 million deal. The reasons that the Kings need Chuck now are the same as they were two weeks: his defense and frontcourt leadership make for a great fit with DeMarcus Cousins. That should be the priority: putting the pieces around the team's two young stars to build a good team. Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette look like strong additions around Tyreke Evans in the backcourt. Hayes seems almost perfect for Cousins. Having Hayes makes the Kings better.

Even if that happens, why the Hades did the Kings void the contract without seeking more opinions? We don't know who exactly looked at Hayes -- the team doctors surely did the initial physical, but there's a possibility that Chuck went to additional doctors. But it took Hayes' agent three days to find a reputable, renowned unit to clear Chuck. The Kings spent five days and couldn't do it to their satisfaction.

I don't know exactly how these physicals work. I don't know what role the agent can have in determining where to get second opinions when the contract isn't official. But even if the Kings get Hayes back, this is a mark against an already flailing franchise. Geoff Petrie and the Kings had everyone in the league believing that Hayes had a heart issue that would prevent him from playing, or that was too big a risk to take on. There wasn't a murmur from the team that the club needed to lose him so he could get an opinion that insurance would cover. The lips of someone in the franchise did get loose ... to let spill the specific diagnosis. Within days, a renowned cardiac unit disagrees with the team's diagnosis. The image of the Kings that is projected -- whether it's fair or not -- is one of a bumbling team that seems to make everything more difficult than it needs to be.

Petrie makes some brilliant moves. Nabbing Marcus Thornton was fantastic. The Tyreke Evans pick wasn't anything like a consensus decision, and it turned out beautifully. Those moves haven't translated to wins, but thanks to Petrie's basketball acumen, the franchise's roster is young, exciting and promising.

But then something like this bizarre situation happens ... a day after Samuel Dalembert leaves more money on the table to play somewhere else. This could all just be a series of unfortunate events that all happen to make the Kings look like a circus, the problems of a rebuilding small-market team exacerbated and put in the spotlight due to bad fortune. Or the Kings could legitimately be a circus, a franchise led by a man largely living off of successes earned a decade ago who refuses to cede the strings of control or step into a new era in the NBA, a business run by owners clinging on for dear life so they can cash out at a more profitable moment.

Some days, it's really hard to tell which vision is the true one. Right now, both seem to have merit.

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