2009-10 Season in Review: Aaron Gray
By: Jim Eichenhofer,
May 10, 2010 continues its look back at the 2009-10 season with player-by-player analysis of the team:

What happened:
The Hornets acquired Gray in a trade with the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 25, in exchange for Devin Brown. Gray suffered a broken leg during the 2009 preseason that caused him to miss the first month of the regular season. The injury also prevented him from getting into optimal physical condition, something he hopes to change during his individual workouts this summer. After appearing in just eight games with the Bulls during the first half of the season, he played 24 games for the Hornets as a backup center.

As a Hornet, he logged double-digit minutes 14 times, including topping the 20-minute plateau on three occasions. The 7-foot, 270-pounder provided New Orleans with some much-needed height and bulk in the paint, while showing a few glimpses of a back-to-the-basket game that has often been lacking from the Hornets halfcourt offense.

Those injuries he had in Chicago before we got him really set him back, said Hornets assistant coach and former NBA center Rob Werdann, who works one-on-one with the teams big men. Hes done a nice job in terms of being a contributor. The fact that he recognizes that he needs to be in better condition is a plus for him. Thats the first step. Once hes in condition, youre not taking as many chances defensively, and youre not fouling guys, because youre quicker. Youre in better position with your feet, so that you dont have to use your hands as much. What happens when youre tired is you start to use your hands. He did so many good things this season. Hes shown a lot of promise, but like he says in his own words, the one thing he has to do is get in better shape.

Rebounding was easily the aspect of the game in which Gray was most effective. Among the 442 players who appeared in an NBA game this season, the former University of Pittsburgh standout ranked 11th in rebounds per minute. Based on NBA.coms figures, Gray grabbed 16.4 rebounds for every 40 minutes played.

He generated his own offense, just from his rebounding, Werdann said.

Best game:
In just his sixth appearance with the Hornets on Feb. 26, Gray authored an invaluable fourth-quarter performance against the Orlando Magic. In a 100-93 NOLA victory broadcast nationally by ESPN, Gray registered six points and seven rebounds, tallying all of his points in the final period. He also limited All-Star center Dwight Howard to just two points in the fourth quarter, after Superman had run roughshod over New Orleans prior to that, piling up 24 points.

Following his surprising outing against Howard and the Magic, Gray quickly became a fan favorite in the Hive.

That's great, Gray said of the support fans showed him. It helps me play better. It makes me want to work harder. Obviously it's a situation where I can come in here, play as hard as I can and do as many positive things as possible. I've always been a blue-collar guy coming out of Pittsburgh. Thats the type of teams we've been known for. I think a town like this can really appreciate and relate to that.

What's next:
Gray will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, meaning he has the ability to sign with any NBA team. Clearly, his preference is to remain in New Orleans, where he received his greatest chance to play so far in his pro career.

Obviously its been a much better situation for me, Gray said, comparing his brief time with the Hornets to his Bulls stint. Its been good to show another city that I can play basketball. I think theyve kind of accepted me pretty well.

I would really like to be back here in New Orleans next year. I really like the guys, I really like the coaching staff. I really feel that I have a place where I can help this team.

Gray knows that in order to succeed in the NBA, he must get in better shape, his top priority in the coming months.

This is going to be a huge summer for me, just changing my body and my mental approach every day, he said. I'm really excited for it and think it's going to be great. I'm not really worried about contracts or money or anything like that. That will be there. I just want to be 100 percent.


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