When Chuck Hayes checks into a game, he's usually at a physical disadvantage.
So the Kings backup forward-center studies a lot of video of opponents to try to gain an edge on the bigger players he must defend or try to score against.
At 6-foot-6, Hayes isn't going to tower over any of his post defensive assignments yet he's become a trusted defensive presence for the Kings because of his preparation.
One of his better efforts came Nov. 3 at Indiana when he helped harass 6-9 Pacers forward David West into a 7-of-21 shooting night.
The Kings will be looking for similar results tonight when they host the Pacers at Sleep Train Arena.
Hayes said the key to slowing any opponent in the post is simple. "Knowing your opponent," Hayes said. "Doing your homework early."
The study habits began during the 2006-07 season under Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy.
"He wanted me to be like Anthony Mason," Hayes said of Van Gundy. "What Anthony Mason was to the Knicks, and it just kind of stuck with me."
Mason was one of the best bruisers in his day but was still listed at 6-8 and 265 pounds.
That's two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than Hayes' listed height and weight.
At times, Hayes may have to guard Indiana center Roy Hibbert, who is 7-2.
Hayes said from studying West, he will try to crowd him and take away his space. Against Hibbert, he'll try to keep him from posting up for a pass near the basket and then invite Hibbert to dribble toward the basket. Making Hibbert dribble means he brings the ball down, which helps negate some of Hibbert's height advantage.
"You've really got to make it hard for them, especially for myself being undersized. I've got make it hard for them," Hayes said. "If he does make the shot on me, it has to be a point where the coaches and fans say, 'Man, that was a tough shot.' "
Kings coach Keith Smart often turns to Hayes late in games when he needs the Kings' defense to tighten up.
The Kings have been prone to mental lapses, and Hayes gives Smart someone to help keep the team organized.
"He's a student," Smart said of Hayes, who the Kings signed last season to a four-year contract. "He knows what a team is running, what the spots are a guy likes to have the ball and tries to minimize the opportunities the player will have, and that's what he does."
Smart could need Hayes to play more minutes against Indiana than he normally does because West is likely to get other players into foul trouble. Smart said the Pacers have featured the former All-Star more recently since they lost guard Danny Granger to injury.
Smart has said that Hayes' improved conditioning this season has made him more effective.
"There's not a better low post defender in the league," said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman, who coached Hayes in Houston. "He's a terrific locker room guy and a leader. It's always good to have someone like that on your team, and (the Kings are) fortunate with their young team to have a guy like him."
It would be beneficial if the team consistently adopted Hayes' study habits.
That's an area where the Kings admit they've not done well in past seasons.
Hayes is in his eighth season largely by being a tactician.
"He's a guy that's big in heart, short in stature but finds a way to get it done even if the guy is 7-1, 7-2," said Kings forward Jason Thompson. "Obviously you want to listen to guy like that. He might not have the quickest feet, but he uses his hands really well."
Hayes might add that he uses his brain really well, too.