Aaron Gray spent the majority of the first two months of the season on the Hornets bench in street clothes. Rather than sulk, he continued to work hard in practice. His effort paid off when he found himself in the Hornets bench roation, but then sprained his ankle. Undettered, he rehabbed hard, and came back a week early when Emeka Okafor was hurt. With Mek out, Gray has been starting at the 5. Jimmy Smith of the Times Picayune has more.

Gray’s effort has been noticed.

“He’s been outstanding,” said guard Chris Paul. “A.G. is one of those guys who comes in before practice, he’s here after practice. He just continues to work hard and has been huge for us with Mek being out. I think everybody on our team has that kind of confidence in him, just because he puts in the effort and the work.”

In his past five games, Gray has collected a pair of double-doubles, 10 points and 10 rebounds in the start against the Lakers and 10 points and 11 rebounds against the Nets. He had eight rebounds against the Magic and Howard, a game in which Gray, 7 feet, 270 pounds, also hounded the Magic with three steals while recording two blocked shots.

http://www.nola.com/hornets/index.ssf/2011/02/aaron_grays_play_has_improved.html

Monty Williams demands a lot from his players, and Gray has given his head coach a superb effort. Assistant coach Randy Ayers has stayed late after practice with Gray, and helped him develop more offense, while also breaking down extra film with the big man. Chris Paul and teammates have noticed Gray's game on the rise, and Gray has noticed his team's faith in him.

“I’ve tried to do the best that I can, and I see the confidence rising with the coaching staff and with my teammates," explained Gray. "They’re giving me the ball down low at times and are expecting me to go rebound the basketball. There’s times when they’re putting me to defend the biggest and best scorers.”