It was a franchise changing trade when the Toronto Raptors sent Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to the Sacramento Kings for Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. The Raptors went from lottery level to the third floor before anyone could fully grasp what was going on, but the players who left were all good guys during their stay in Toronto and they deserve the fans respect for their efforts on their return.
Toronto was off to a rough start, 6-12 and losing games they should have won, but all that was about to change. The affected players didn’t play against the Lakers in December as the trade was being finalized with the league office and the short-handed Raptors unexpectedly won. It was a precursor for what was about to happen, Toronto went 1-1 waiting for their new teammates to arrive and 9-2 immediately thereafter as Head Coach Dwane Casey inserted his new players into the rotation off the bench and chemistry was born. The Raptors are 27-14 since that afternoon in Los Angeles.
Gay was the key player in the deal and he was doing his best in Toronto, but the Raptors were trying to get him to do more than he ever had before and it just wasn’t working out.
“It is a lot different,” said Gay shortly before the trade. “(It is) just adding a new dynamic to my game. I welcome the challenge. There is no reason (I can’t do this), but obviously this team needs to score too and that is something I have been doing for a long time. It is not like Coach is trying to change my game, he is just trying to help me get better.”
It wasn’t getting better. While he was in Toronto, Gay was shooting a career high 18.6 shots per game and hitting them at a career low rate of 38.8 percent from the field. Maybe things would have turned around if Gay had more time or maybe the Raptors were just demanding more than Gay had to give, but in Sacramento, Gay flipped the switch and is taking the fewest number of shots since his rookie season (15.5) and sinking half of them.
The biggest guy on the Raptors, Gray has been a team player since he signed in Toronto as a free agent in 2011. Always willing to do whatever was asked of him, never complained and ready to help the young guys eager to take his minutes, Gray was the kind of veteran that any team could use that sits on the edge of the rotation patiently waiting for when he was needed and on one of the dark days of losing seasons past, Gray even got “MVP” chants from the home crowd – once.
“I have had a few experiences in my career (and I am) just trying to help as much as possible, especially going through pick-and-roll coverages and knowing what they are going to see,” Gray said at the start of this season. “It is just the type of person (I am). I am not the type of guy who wishes for other people on my team to do bad so I can succeed. I want to see everyone do well. This is my seventh year in the league. It is a blessing. I am thankful for everything that I have and I just want to see that kind of success for other guys.”
Gray has a bigger role in Sacramento, but not a big role. Gray is the immoveable mountain of a man who will knock you down and can’t be pushed off the block. It’s just the league has changed and Grey is not the player that can cover the more mobile athletic centers many teams employ now.
Acy was becoming a crowd favorite in Toronto, a genuinely nice guy with off the charts energy to spare. The trade has been good for Acy. He is part of the rotation, averages 15 minutes per game and gets to play the hustle role that fits him.
“My game is high energy,” Acy said early this season. “It is not just based on that I am an offensive rebounder or a defender, I can do anything to provide a spark. That is my main thing, just to put some life into the team whenever I can, whenever they need it.
“Energy is my skill. No matter who I go against, I am going to bring my all-out energy. There are a lot of people with different skills in the league and my skill is to bring energy and I can’t let anybody have more energy than me or be better than me at my skill.”
Acy provided a spark for the crowd at the Air Canada Centre earlier this season when things were not going as well. He should be remembered with some enthusiasm.
The players that left Toronto were well-liked, but there is still a game to be played and when these two teams met in Sacramento, the Raptors were not ready and Gay and the Kings took it from them. Something Casey has been reminding everyone for almost a week now.
Sacramento is better with Gay in the lineup, 16-21 with Gay and 5-13 the day before the deal went down. That’s not the same as the Raptors improvement, but the Kings can score and between DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Gay, they have 3 players averaging over 20 points per game. They can bury the unwary in points.
The Raptors are playing for playoff seeding and the Kings are playing for pride. If Toronto takes them lightly, they will lose to them again, but its unlikely Casey is going to let that happen this time.
Check out the latest about the returning former Raptors from before they left the team:
Raptors Demanding Still More From Rudy Gay
Earlier this season, Gay found himself in the unusual position of playing a lot of small ball. Often moving up to the power forward spot and being required to provide more of a big man presence with rebounding and blocks. As the season progressed and the Raptors fell to dead last in assists across the league, Head Coach Dwane Casey asked Gay to add facilitator to his list of duties.
Quincy Acy: Bringing Life To The Raptors
The Toronto Raptors sophomore Quincy Acy looked to be buried pretty deep on the back end of Head Coach Dwane Casey’s roster at the start of this season, but for the past 5 games, this self described energy guy has been bringing life to games at times when his teammates have needed a lift.
Raptors Aaron Gray: A Coach-In-Waiting
Walk into the Raptors dressing before any of the games over the past couple of seasons and the odds are you will see journeyman center Aaron Gray sitting opposite the big TV screen watching their opponent’s last game. Ask almost any of the younger players hanging around the room who has been helping them out and Gray’s name comes up a surprising number of times.