Sweat pouring down his face, Chuck Hayes couldn’t have been any happier Thursday.

He finally was back on the court, having undergone his first gruelling practice as a Raptor.

Hayes, acquired from Sacramento in the Rudy Gay trade, had been cleared to play Wednesday against Charlotte after getting additional medical testing done in Cleveland on Monday, but Dwane Casey decided to wait until Hayes got more familiar with his new teammates.

Hayes was thrilled to do just that ahead of Toronto’s three-game trip, which starts Friday in Dallas.

Hayes has missed multiple games due to injuries a few times in his career, but he had no control over this break.

“Ah man, before today, I hadn’t done anything since December 7th,” Hayes said.

“With the travel, the trade, getting together personal things and the medical clearance that I had to go through, it feels great. Felt like riding a bike.”

Hayes, a 6-foot-6 big man considered one of the league’s best interior defenders and ablest post passers, will fight for minutes with the likes of Tyler Hansbrough and Patrick Patterson behind Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. Casey said he was tempted to throw Hayes in against Bobcats centre Al Jefferson on Wednesday.

He will also bring some veteran smarts to the mix and he’s already being pretty savvy in picking and choosing how best to deal with his new pals.

“I’m trying, but I’m still new to this. I’m learning how my teammates work, how they function. Who can take constructive criticism and who can’t,” he said.