The smile is unmistakable, even on the court, even during the most intense of games. Greivis Vasquez plays with the same enthusiasm that prompted him to nearly sprint to the stage three years ago in New York when he was drafted in the first round by the Grizzlies.
Fast-forward to this season. The NBA’s only player from baseball-crazed Venezuela, where Miguel Cabrera and Andres Galarraga are the standards for sports heroes, appears to have found a home with the New Orleans Hornets.
A leading candidate for Most Improved Player, Vasquez is fourth in the league in assists (8.8 per game). As the starting point guard for the youthful but talented Hornets, Vasquez has flourished in his role as floor leader. He scored 25 points as the Hornets snapped a seven-game losing streak with a win Tuesday against the Clippers.
The Hornets are an organization in transition, with Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers as their rookie anchors while they wait for potential cornerstone Eric Gordon to come back from knee issues. Without a true point guard after the departure of Chris Paul, Vasquez received his first full-time starting job. So far, he is taking advantage of the chance.
“I am blessed to have this opportunity that I have right now,” he said. “I do appreciate what coach Monty Williams is doing with me. He’s giving me a great amount of responsibility and he’s letting me play. He’s letting me develop my game and showing the NBA what I’m capable of doing.
“And, to me, right now, I’ve still got so much room to get better. I can lead this team to win more games.”