The Chuck Hayes' situation cost the Kings organization an estimated $1 million, but what price life? Geoff Petrie and Hayes are expected to provide details about recent developments later today, but even before hearing both parties' accounts about the veteran forward/center's medical results, brief retirement and second opinion from cardiologists at the Cleveland Clinic, my initial reaction is that the Kings acted prudently.
Hayes, who signed a four-year, $21 million deal with the Kings on Dec. 9, failed his physical when team cardiologists diagnosed what was believed to be a potentially life-threatening heart abnormality. After the Kings voided the contract, however, Hayes went for a second opinon at the renowned medical facility in Cleveland and was cleared to resume his career. He reached a new agreement with the Kings on Thursday - with that little bonus - after at least three other teams contacted his agent about his availability. (According to sources, the Kings voided the original deal before arranging for additional opinions because they received their medical report within only hours of the six-day deadline that teams are allowed for newly-signed free agents to undergo and pass physicals).
The first question Geoff Petrie will be asked today is this: why the delay between the tests and the diagnosis?
Nonetheless, I will be the last person to quibble with the Kings cautious approach, partly because of personal experience. I was seated courtside at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, a few feet from Terry Cummings when the rookie forward collapsed during a Clippers-Jazz game on Dec. 15, 1982. The site was horrific. A strapping 6-foot-9 forward from DePaul, Cummings was running downcourt when he suddenly stopped and began trembling, his arms flailing at his sides, before collapsing. Most of us thought we had just watched someone die, though he apparently remained conscious. He was rushed to a local hospital, and after monitoring and extensive testing at Northwestern University Medical Center, was diagnosed with a treatable heart condition - a rapid rhythm disturbance - and treated with the drug, Amiodarone.
Though he was never the same player, often complained about being fatigued by the medication, becoming more of a perimeter player than bruising, interior presence, he enjoyed a long and healthy career.