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Ayon Making Adjustments to New Country, Team
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
January 26, 2012



In any business, its imperative for new employees to learn whats often referred to as company jargon - industry-specific terms workers must understand in order to communicate with their boss and colleagues. For New Orleans Hornets rookie forward Gustavo Ayon, the challenge of grasping some of the nuanced language of his chosen profession brought a few unforeseen challenges.

For example, the native of Mexico - who is regularly seeing a tutor to help improve his English - recently was told by Hornets coaches to slip on a pick-and-roll play. In the unique language of basketball, slipping a pick means to fake like youre about to set a screen for a teammate, but instead proceed directly to the basket, in the hope of receiving a pass for a point-blank shot. Unfortunately, based on what Ayon had learned about English up to that point, the word slip meant to fall down. Upon hearing the slip instruction, the 26-year-old stared back at New Orleans coaches with a confused look.

Its not only about learning English, but also basketball jargon, Hornets head coach Monty Williams explained of Ayons adjustment to the NBA. Once he gets that down and understands some of those things, he should be a better player.

No matter what language is being spoken, one thing Ayon immediately recognized upon coming to the league was that playing hard during every game and practice would earn him minutes something that needed no translation. In his first month with the Hornets and in United States, the 6-foot-10, 250-pounder has emerged as a bright spot and well-liked player among both fans and teammates.

Hes learning English every day, but he certainly understands effort, Williams praised. When you have a guy who is willing to learn and really wants it badly, you can put up with his mistakes at times because he plays so hard. Not only is he a fan favorite, but (teammates) love him. When he makes a play, guys come flying off the bench. He gets me excited.

Ayon had little time to prepare for his rookie NBA season, signing with New Orleans only three days before the teams Dec. 26 opener at Phoenix. He made his official debut in the Hornets fourth game of 2011-12 on Jan. 1 in Sacramento. By his fifth appearance, Ayon was making a notable statistical contribution off the bench, notching seven points and four rebounds in just 13 minutes vs. Minnesota.

Even before his on-court performances began resulting in tangible numbers, Hornets coaches noticed several positive traits about Ayon, whose transition is also being aided by the fact that guard Greivis Vasquez and assistant coach James Borrego are fluent in Spanish.

He plays the way that you should play the game, Williams credited. Even if he makes a mistake, you can live with it because he plays so hard. And everything he does is for the team. I think hes a guy who certainly plays our style of basketball. He plays hard every night, and he has a good feel for the game. He knows how to make the right play. He makes unselfish plays. You want that guy coming off the bench to be a game-changer. Hes been that for us. Sometimes hes doing the wrong thing, but he does it so hard that you cant help but like him.

Other than picking up the language, one of Ayons most difficult early adjustments will be discovering how he can be most effective against NBA competition. Hes scored the majority of his baskets in the paint (shooting 68.4 percent from the field through Jan. 20) and appears to have growing confidence on offense.

Once he starts knocking down his shot, that could add an element to his game, Williams said. Right now, hes got a great touch. Im not going to get crazy and make assessments after hes only played a few games for us, but I just think hes hungry. You can tell he wants it. Hes just got to keep working and hes going to get better and better. He just plays the way we ask our guys to play. Even if it might take a little while longer to understand everything theyre asking.


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