SAN ANTONIO Chuck Hayes studies the Kings' opponents as if he's still in the starting lineup.
But Hayes hasn't played since dislocating his left shoulder Jan. 5 against Milwaukee, an injury that looked to keep him out three to four weeks.
Hayes is making progress toward returning, as he took part in Thursday night's practice at the Spurs' facility.
"It felt real good," Hayes said. "I'm excited, I can't wait to play. Wish I could play today (Friday), or sometime on this road trip, but it's not my call."
Kings coach Keith Smart would welcome Hayes' veteran presence back on the court. The Kings worked on running the offense and shooting, Smart said, and Hayes didn't have a lot of soreness Friday.
"(Hayes) was able to go through the whole program of shooting and hopefully probably in the next couple of days or so he'll get on the floor and do some things with some contact," Smart said.
"We're going to take it day by day."
Hayes said sleeping in the wrong position and putting on his sports jacket before games was tough until recently.
After missing eight games, Hayes is eager to return to the lineup.
"I think the part I've got to get through is the mental part," Hayes said. "Not shying away from contact when I come back. Just test the shoulder out, let it bump into somebody so the muscles can get to working."
Working into shape Smart continues to find ways to improve the Kings' conditioning while trying to keep them fresh for games.
"What we can do is have them go up and down more than the normal amount of times," Smart said. "It's still part of the normal conditioning but just not at the fast pace. I may have them go up and down 10 times as opposed to when we're going live we'll go up and down four times hard."
Smart's goal is to have the Kings be able to play at a fast tempo at all times, whereas the Kings can only maintain that pace in spurts right now.
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