No one was more disappointed with Chuck Hayes' first season in Sacramento than Hayes himself.
Health scares, injuries and coaching changes contributed to a down season for Hayes, who was brought in for his leadership, defensive acumen and basketball IQ.
This season, however, Hayes showed up for training camp in better shape and has looked like the player the Kings expected.
"I know my role. I know what to expect," Hayes said. "Last year, it was hard to figure out with a new coach, new teammates. Going into Year 2, I knew what I had to do."
That meant working to improve his overall fitness, which was set back after the lockout and limited when he dislocated his shoulder early in the season.
Now the 6-foot-6 forward/center is more active on the floor and playing aggressive defense.
"You've seen the lift come back," coach Keith Smart said. "His basketball IQ is off the charts. He understands the game and has the winning mentality. Now you see him getting in better shape and you see the things he's able to do that can help our basketball team."
Hayes continues to strive to get in even better shape. He regularly works with Kings strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro on top of what he does in practice.
"I just get in extra cardio just about every day," Hayes said. "I just want to stay healthy and try to extend my career by being in the best shape as possible."
On the court, Hayes has been productive to start the season.
Hayes grabbed 11 rebounds in Friday's loss to Minnesota. He guarded Indiana standout forward David West for most of the fourth quarter and both overtimes in Saturday's loss.
Hayes has also been valuable with his passing and help getting the offense organized.
"He understands the game," Smart said. "He's like a point center. When you have a guy that may not be as vocal, he's able to share and put people in place. He does the same thing in practice that he does in games. A guy with that kind of understanding is a huge positive for our team."
Hayes, 29, said he's feeling as good as he has in a while. He's not claiming to have found the fountain of youth but does see the results of his work.
"I'm slowly getting there," Hayes said. "You'll never be what you used to be, but you can get as close as you can."
Foul issues The Kings have been called for 89 fouls in their first three games, including 26, their fewest this season, in Saturday's loss.
Foul problems aren't new to the Kings. In four of the last five seasons, they have had the NBA's leader in personal fouls:
Mikki Moore with 310 in 2007-08.
Jason Thompson with 314 in his rookie season, 2008-09.
DeMarcus Cousins in each of his first two seasons, 332 in 2010-11 and 257 last season.