2010-11 Season in Review: Aaron Gray
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
May 26, 2011
Hornets.com continues its look back at the 2010-11 season with player-by-player analysis of the team:
The 7-foot center probably improved as much over the course of the 2010-11 season as any Hornets player, with his role expanding greatly in the second half of the campaign. Gray did not play in 39 of the teams first 49 games through the end of January. After that, however, he only sat out three of the final 33 contests in February, March and April. He also started six February games in place of the injured Emeka Okafor, averaging 6.2 points and 7.8 rebounds over 25.7 minutes per outing.
Grays importance to the second unit became even more evident during the playoffs, when his stature and frame was critical against the oversized Lakers frontcourt. Gray scored 12 and seven points, respectively, in New Orleans Game 1 and Game 4 victories against the two-time defending NBA champions. He also had eight- and six-rebound outings in the six-game series.
Its funny, because I think maybe Im an example of what guys can look at, as far as you honestly never know what can happen in this league, Gray said of his 2010-11 campaign. Ive been in every position: coming off the bench, on the inactive list, playing 40 minutes, at the foul line in overtime, starting. Im glad that I handled it the way I did. Obviously there are things I wish I couldve done more of. But Im proud of my teammates and the coaching staff for continuing to believe in me. They never lost confidence in me.
As was the case with several Hornets players, Gray gave significant credit to first-year head coach Monty Williams and his staff for helping make him a better player. Gray took the first step toward improvement during the 2010 offseason, when he shed about 25 pounds.
A lot of credit has to go to Monty Williams, Gray said after the season-ending Game 6 loss to the Lakers. He coached me every day, no matter what situation I was in. He coaches guys 1 through 15 the same way. It was something Im thankful for. Weve got to make a lot of steps next season. As much as were hurting, we know we can do more.
Williams: Hes a guy we depend on. Hes learning how to be a really, really good pro. He works hard every day. He couldve complained early on (about not playing) and did not. He waited his turn, and made the most of it.
Its a tough call between Grays ultra-clutch 10-point, eight-rebound contributions in a March 24 overtime win at Utah, or his outstanding Game 1 performance at the Lakers. Given the postseason stage, lets go with that April 16 victory in Los Angeles, which showed the basketball world that New Orleans would not be a pushover in its first-round playoff series. Gray tallied 12 points, his highest scoring output of 2010-11, while going 5-for-5 from the field. The fact that he did so against the Lakers made it even more eye-opening.
No one expected him to have the kind of impact he had on the game, Williams said. Basically defending (Pau) Gasol and (Andrew) Bynum, nullifying their game, and having the game he had (offensively). He was 5-for-5 from the field. Who wouldve thought at the beginning of the season that wed be counting on Aaron Gray in a playoff game against the Lakers?
During the 2010 offseason, Gray signed a two-year free-agent contract with the Hornets, but the deal included a player option for 2011-12. That means Gray must decide whether he wants to pick up the option guaranteeing his return to the Hornets next season or become a free agent with the ability to sign with any NBA team.
Minutes after the final buzzer sounded on 2010-11, Gray said he was looking forward to seeing what New Orleans could accomplish in what would be his third season with the Hornets.
As players we appreciate everything (fans) do for us, Gray said, after hearing the home crowd chant Thank You Hornets! late in Game 6s defeat to the Lakers. We want to take it a step further next year. Its a great town. They embrace us. They love us. Obviously its just one beginning step to what we want to accomplish here.
|ADDITIONAL 2010-11 SEASON IN REVIEWS|
|DAVID WEST||AARON GRAY||EMEKA OKAFOR|
|QUINCY PONDEXTER||CARL LANDRY||CHRIS PAUL|
|JARRETT JACK||JASON SMITH||TREVOR ARIZA|
|MARCO BELINELLI||WILLIE GREEN|
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