Latest Buzz: Gutierrez Making Most of 10-Day Deal
By Sam Perley, hornets.com
The first few days after the NBA trade deadline can be a lot like the beginning of the season for some players. Many are meeting new teammates and coaches for the first time while trying to adjust to a new city and playing environment. While Courtney Lee was the primary addition to the Hornets roster last week, another new face in Jorge Gutierrez has also made his way to Charlotte after officially signing a 10-day contract on Feb. 20.
“The city is beautiful,” said Gutierrez when asked about his initial impressions of his new home. “I’ve been here before when I was with the Brooklyn Nets. The team is a really good team, really good coaches, really good teammates. Everybody really made me feel welcome.
Originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, the newest Hornet’s path to Charlotte has been far from straightforward. Gutierrez graduated from high school basketball powerhouse Findlay Prep in Nevada in 2008 before playing collegiately at the University of California. While in Berkeley, he helped lead the Golden Bears to a Pac-12 regular season championship in 2010 and three NCAA tournament appearances.
Despite garnering Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors as senior, Gutierrez still went unselected in the 2012 NBA Draft. Up until now, he has played professional in both Mexico and the NBA Developmental League in addition to short stints with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks.
Before becoming a Hornet, Gutierrez spent his entire season with the D-League’s Canton Charge, where he averaged 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.2 steals in 22 total games. He officially made his debut in the purple and teal on Feb. 24 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, tallying four points, two assists and a steal in four minutes off the bench. Although the D-League life might not be as glamorous as it is in the NBA, Gutierrez is grateful for the opportunities in both Canton and Charlotte.
“[The D-League is] a grind [and] a little different than the NBA. It’s a good thing. That’s why you play in the D-League – to get that call up,” says Gutierrez. “Once you get that call, you got to get here right away. You have to get used to the team right away because you only have 10 days to prove you can stick around. It’s difficult but at the same time that’s what we want to do,” he added.
Gutierrez has also made numerous appearances for the Mexican National Team, most notably during its surprising run to the squad’s first-ever FIBA Americas Championship in 2013. By virtue of a top-four finish in this tournament, Mexico also qualified for the World Championships in 2014 for the first time since 1974. The team advanced to the round of 16, where it was eliminated by the eventual champion United States.
This summer, Mexico is scheduled to play a 2016 Olympic qualifier in Turin, Italy where the winner of the six-team tournament will receive one of three remaining spots for men’s basketball in Rio de Janeiro. Gutierrez, who was also just the fourth Mexican-born player to make it to the NBA, plans to suit up for the national team once again but knows right now everything is about proving himself to the Hornets.
“[The Olympic qualifier] is the plan,” said Gutierrez. “As of right now, I’m focusing on [Charlotte], everyday. Take everyday seriously and make sure I do everything I can to prove that I can play. When the National Team comes up, then I’ll worry about that.”
Gutierrez’s time in Charlotte might be brief although the team can choose to resign him to another 10-day contract once his initial one ends. If that 10-day contract also were to expire, the Hornets would need to either sign him for the rest of the season or lose the option of having him on their roster. Although his overall impact on the team might be limited over the next couple weeks, Gutierrez is undoubtedly an intriguing player worth rooting for in the NBA regardless of where he ultimately ends up.
Key Matchup vs. Pacers: Marvin Williams vs. Myles Turner
Two pleasant surprises on their respective teams will go head to head on Friday night when Marvin Williams and the Hornets take on Myles Turner and the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse… Williams continues to exceed expectations in his second season with Charlotte, averaging 10.6 points and career highs in both rebounding (6.7) and blocks (1.0) in a team-best 56 games… The 11th-year veteran will likely match up against Indiana’s Myles Turner, who has been turning heads lately after being selected 11th overall in last June’s NBA Draft… The rookie from the University of Texas is putting up big-time averages of 15.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks over his last five games for the Pacers… Look for the Hornets to attack the perimeter in order to nullify Turner’s defensive impact, which could go a long way in picking up a huge season-series-clinching win over the Pacers in Indianapolis on Friday night.
Key Matchup vs. Hawks: Al Jefferson vs. Al Horford
It will be a showdown of the Al’s on Sunday afternoon when Al Jefferson of the Hornets squares off against Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks… After missing nearly two months because of knee surgery, Jefferson is finally pain-free and working his way back into form, posting averages of 15.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in 22.5 minutes off the bench in Charlotte’s last two games… The Hornets will hope to see more of vintage Jefferson as he takes on four-time NBA All-Star Al Horford down in Atlanta… Now in his ninth NBA season, Horford is averaging 15.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and a career-high 1.6 blocks although is shooting just 50.4 percent from the field, which is his lowest shooting percentage since his rookie year… Look to see a physical battle in the paint between Al Jefferson and Al Horford when the Hornets take on the Hawks down in Atlanta in another game with Eastern Conference playoff implications on Sunday afternoon.