Chuck Hayes is optimistic his return to the court will be sooner rather than later.
“We’re gonna see how I wake up in the morning,” the veteran big man told reporters after practice today. ”See how my shoulder feels and it’s going to be a gametime decision.”
Hayes has missed the last three weeks of action after dislocating his left shoulder against the Milwaukee Bucks on January 5th. He participated in his first full practice on Tuesday.
“These past couple practices have been good,” Hayes said. “I’ve thrown my shoulder around a little bit, just to mentally get over the fact that I’m coming back from injury.
“It’s been pulled a little bit,” he added. “It’s been bumped into a little bit. So, hopefully it responds well if I play tomorrow.”
Hayes now wears a brace that’s given him added protection against contact. However, it prevents him from fully extending his arm and shoulder, limiting his range of motion.
“It’s like a straight-jacket,” said the Kings big man, who feels the brace causes more discomfort than the injury itself at this point. “It’s squeezing me all around my chest and my rib cage and my shoulder…I’ve got to get over that and just play.”
He hopes the protective gear isn’t a long-term solution.
“I hope it won’t be the rest of the season,” Hayes responded when asked how long he expects to wear the brace. “I hope it’s just a temporary thing until I get comfortable and my shoulder gets stronger.”
Hayes is happy about the progress he’s made in recovery. But, he does believe the injury has caused some long-term consequences to his workout routine.
“This is going to have to be something I might have to do, I know for sure, the whole year,” Hayes said, speaking of shoulder exercises and drills he conducts before practices and games. ”But maybe the rest of my career (too) – just doing the treatment to strengthen up and tighten up these ligaments in my shoulder.”
The last few weeks of Kings basketball have been excruciating for Hayes to watch. Marked by inconsistent play on both ends of the floor, the Kings have gone 3-8 in his absence.
“It was frustrating,” Hayes said of watching games from the bench. “Because when you’re on the outside looking in, you see everything. You see the breakdowns, you see where we have our mistakes at, our miscues.
“It just eats you up because you try to relate it to the players, but they don’t see it because they’re in the middle of it. But hopefully I can play and try to translate what I saw from the bench over to the court.”
If he does play, the final decision will likely come from team doctors and training staff. Kings Head Coach Keith Smart has repeatedly said since Wednesday he’ll wait for clearance from them before putting the veteran big man back in the lineup.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter.