Reaction today to the announcement that Chuck Hayes is returning to the Kings underscored the idea that Hayes left a real impression on players and coaches during his first stint in training camp.
The team announced Thursday night it had agreed in principle to a new four-year deal with Hayes, shortly after the veteran forward-center -- whose original contract was voided by the team after it was announced earlier this week that he had a heart abnormality -- was cleared to continue playing professional basketball by the Cleveland Clinic.
"It's a blessing," center DeMarcus Cousins said. "Nothing but the Lord. Our prayers were answered and Chuck is coming back.
"Chuck was that veteran leader on this team. Chuck was basically the voice on this team, the most experienced. That's what we all looked up to. When Chuck left, that was a big piece of our team, even though it was early on in the season."
Hayes is expected to be back in Sacramento tonight, suit up for practice tomorrow and start against the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.
Coach Paul Westphal said that while Hayes was gone, players broke huddles by saying "Chuck," to "remind everybody what he brought to this team and the attitude you have to bring to work every day."
Forward John Salmons said players reached out to Hayes on Thursday. "Just sent him a text message saying we can't wait to get him back," Salmons said.
-- Matt Kawahara