Czar’s Season Update: Season Surprises

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On the Road with Mike

Pitbull was the surprise guest at TNT’s All-Star party on Saturday night. This year’s invitation only event took place at the House of Blues in Orlando. Pitbull played for about an hour and put on an electrifying show. There’s so much energy in his music, you can’t help but bounce around to the Latin-infused hip hop beats. In fact, I did some break dancing. Still, it was impossible to upstage Pitbull’s great performance.

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On the Road with Mike

The great entertainer Frankie Avalon came through Cleveland last week so I had a chance to spend some time with him and enjoy an outstanding dinner at Nido Italia prior to the All-Star break.

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Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Gustavo Ayon

With the New Orleans Hornets looking to deal Chris Kaman before the NBA’s March 15th trade deadline, 6-10 power forward Gustavo Ayon will be one to watch in the upcoming weeks.

Coming out of the 2012 All-Star Break, the Hornets have the third worst record in the 30-team league. They epitomize a professional sports franchise in transition on many levels. Owned and essentially operated by the Commissioner’s office, New Orleans traded away their best player PG extraordinaire Chris Paul to the LA Clippers at the start of the season and have been publicly shopping several key players in order to revamp their roster and create cap space for the long run.

Add to this basketball kettle a slew of injuries to key players, and you have an environment where untested and younger members of the roster have a chance to show coach Monty Williams that they belong on the floor. In 26-year-old, internationally-seasoned rookie Gustavo Ayon, the Hornets have a big man who has been getting increasing court time and upping his production due to the aforementioned circumstances.

A proud son of Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico, Ayon played professionally in the Mexican and Spanish Leagues before signing with New Orleans in 2011, and he has been the starting center on the Mexican National Team since 2007. During his first couple months with the Hornets, Ayon only averaged 11.4 mpg, 3.1 FG attempts per game, 2.7 rpg and 4.4 ppg. However, with injuries sidelining bigs Carl Landry and Emeka Okafor and with Kaman’s name being mentioned constantly in legit trade talks, Ayon started playing and contributing a lot more in February. So far this month, he’s more than doubled his minutes played with 25.3 per game as well as grabbing 7.7 rpg, scoring 7.5 ppg and putting up 6 FG per contest.

In addition, Ayon saw 30 minutes of court time per game and had two double-doubles in his last six showings. And he pulled down 17 boards to go with 9 points, 4 dimes, a block and 2 steals in NO’s 89-84 win over Cleveland before the All-Star break. Coach Monty Williams is notoriously tough on his big men, and it can be deduced that Ayon’s rise in minutes in part is due to a new found trust and belief in this 26-year old rookie.

Czar’s Season Update: NBA All-Star 2012

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