The New Orleans Hornets (who were purchased by Saints owner Tom Benson for $338 million on Friday) lost starting point guard Jarrett Jack at the beginning of April to a stress fracture in his right foot. The 7th-year guard out of Georgia Tech will be sidelined for the remainder of the season, so head coach Monty Williams has plugged 6’6″, 2nd-year Venezuelan combo guard Greivis Vasquez into this backcourt hole.
The 2010 ACC Player of The Year at Maryland and former first-round draft choice has filled in nicely for the injured Jack over the past seven games. Since joining the first string, Vasquez’s numbers have increased significantly across the board. He has averaged 34.1 minutes per game, 12.3 ppg, 7.4 apg, 3 rpg and 1.3 steals per game in seven starts. Though the 18-42 NOLA squad has been out of playoff contention for months, the Hornets have gone 5-2 and won their last three contests since Vasquez was inserted into the starting five.
With New Orleans being a team in transition in multiple areas, from ownership, to defining their player core, to devising competitive strategies for success in the West, look for them to give their young guns like Vasquez more run as they finish out the regular season and head to the Lottery. Vasquez should be a solid pick-up for fantasy owners who need to fill in some gaps during the final six regular season games.
* On March 17th, 1939 the first NCAA tournament game in history tipped off at the Palestra in Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Brown Bears, 42-30.
* On March 17th, 1989 Alonzo Mourning blocked two shots in the last six seconds of the game to permit No. 1 seed Georgetown to avoid an upset at the hands of #16-seed Princeton, 50-49.
* The patron saint of Ireland St. Patrick was born in Scotland in the year 387.
* Blue was the color originally associated with Saint Patrick, but over the years the color green’s affiliation with Saint Patrick’s Day grew. Now it’s common to sport green attire and to drink green beer in celebration of St. Paddy’s.
* Paddy is derived from the Irish male name Pádraig.
* NYC’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade has become the largest in the world. In a typical year, 150,000 marchers participate in it, and 2 million spectators line the streets.
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.