The excitement about signing Chuck Hayes for the Kings wasn't just that Hayes would improve the team defense.
It was that Hayes could have signed elsewhere but chose Sacramento. For a franchise looking for some good news this offseason, Hayes choosing to be a King was a sign things might be turning for the better.
So the news that a heart abnormality would cause Hayes' contract to be voided hit the team hard. Hayes is a likeable guy and had quickly won over coaches and teammates.
"We're not going to be able to replace him," said Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie. "He was one of the best defensive frontcourt players in the league and a really unique player we thought would facilitate some offense. We'll take a look at what we can do but it's not going to be the same."
The Kings new offense was designed to use Hayes and DeMarcus Cousins as passers. Hayes had already taken the lead as a vocal and physical force on defense.
The Kings will now look at ways to replace Hayes, who was projected as a starter.
"We obviously have a pretty good idea of who's out there," Petrie said. "I'm sure we'll talk about it some more. We still have 13 players so we'll figure out what the best thing to do going forward."
Free agent big men available include Samuel Dalembert, who spent last season with the Kings.
Dalembert has explored sign-and-trade options with the Kings, who had moved on after signing Hayes to a four-year deal worth $21.3 million and trading for J.J. Hickson.
Petrie said he could not go into detail about the talks with Dalembert or his agent Marc Cornstein.
"We've stayed in touch with them periodically along the way," Petrie said. "We'll see what develops here in the next few days and go from there."