There have been lots of reports that the Kings Rudy Gay has subtly or not so subtly been hoping for a trade to a contender as the veteran forward recently turned 30-years-old and Sacramento has spent the past decade as a Lottery Team with no one giving them a chance to break the futility streak this season. However, he isn’t moaning or complaining directly, instead a better description of what Gay has been doing is showcasing himself by being on pace for the best shooting percentages (50 percent from the field, 45 percent from three), points scored (22.6 per game) and free throw attempts (6.6 per game) of his career.
“I don’t like talking about my personal goals,” Gay told Pro Bball Report. “I’m a team guy. I feel that nobody can win a game by himself, you got to win it together. Personal goals are B.S. to me. Obviously if you do the right things, you’ll get what you want.”
After a decade in the NBA and playing for three different organizations, Gay knows players are always being evaluated and scouted by the 29 other teams in the league you aren’t currently playing for. Everyone knows if you are doing the right things.
So after missing the front half of a back-to-back on Saturday in Milwaukee due to a painful rib cartilage strain, Gay dragged himself on to the court in Toronto on Sunday to showcase/prove he can play through pain and produce versus last year’s Eastern Conference Finalists. Gay went 9-19 (47.4 percent) from the field and 2-5 from three-point range to score a game-high (tied with DeMar DeRozan) 23 points in 35.4 minutes. The Kings were a team best +12 points with Gay in the game and pulled out a surprising 96-91 victory over the final three minutes.
An NBA career as a proven points producer, Gay is currently at the top of his game and other teams will have noticed.
Gay knows the Kings should improve as the season progresses, it just takes time after every significant change to figure out how to play as a team and Sacramento is on their ninth head coach in 11 seasons. Gay himself has endured four different head coaches in his 3.7 seasons with the team. The obvious contrast is the tenure and success of the Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, now in his sixth season in Toronto, and the team’s core of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. Plus, Patrick Patterson who came to Toronto as part of the trade for Gay in 2013.
“We are one of those teams that has had a lot of change,” Gay said. “A lot of different scenarios we have to deal with, a lot of different teammates. Whereas you have Toronto where they have had their core for at least their third, fourth year? Maybe longer than that. Fifth year, it is Kyle Lowry’s fifth year here. We don’t have that luxury. So we are just trying to get better as quick as possible.”
Stability is often the hallmark of a good team, not only early in the season, but as the year progresses as well. Even the recent run of “super teams” have tended to struggle and underachieve until the players and coaches got to know each other better. The ever revolving door in Sacramento likely means their struggles will continue.
The speculation that Gay will opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s only slated to earn $14.2 million and as a 30-year-old player, this summer is likely his best chance at locking down his last lucrative long term deal. The Kings know this – actually everyone knows this. No speculation necessary.
Plus, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if his first choice in free agency is to play for a team that’s more stable and has a better chance at winning. Thus the speculation that the Kings should try to get something for Gay by the trade deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing in July. Money can only ease the pain of losing only so much and it remains uncertain if this version of the Kings can start winning enough to attract or keep players like Gay.
Is Rudy Gay showcasing himself in the hopes of promoting a trade? That would be a fair interpretation, but when he was in Toronto playing for a team that wasn’t enjoying much success at the time, he always came across as a team guy that tried to do the right thing.
A showcase of putting up career best numbers this season is the right thing for both Gay and the Sacramento Kings now. Someone will be watching, Boston? Indiana? Miami? Houston? OKC? Toronto?
Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson