Chris Paul and Rudy Gay go way back.
Never mind the two were involved in a rather intense opening-round playoffs series last year.
When asked Monday during the Los Angeles Clippers’ shootaround in FedExForum to assess the latest rumors surrounding a possible trade involving Gay before the February 21 deadline, Paul, as he customarily is with the media, was forthright about the subject.
“Rudy is one of my closet friends,” Paul said. “Rudy was at my wedding. His fiancé and my wife talk every day. So they’d be crazy to get rid of Rudy.”
Gay, now in his seventh seasons with the Grizzlies, missed Monday’s game against the Clippers to attend the funeral of his grandmother in his native hometown of Baltimore but is expected to return for Wednesday’s game at San Antonio. If nothing else, Memphis certainly appeared affected by Gay’s absence, given it shot a season-worst 30 percent from the field and suffered its worst home loss of the season, 99-73, against a Clippers team that boasts the NBA’s second-best record.
In dropping their second straight, the Grizzlies (24-12) also produced their lowest scoring output of the season, in large part because they couldn’t exhibit enough energy to atone for Gay’s team-leading 17.8 points per game.
During the Grizzlies’ recent struggles, particularly in December when they generated a 7-7 mark, talks surrounding a possible trade involving Gay increased. Team officials reportedly began talks with other franchises that Gay could be available via trade prior to next month’s deadline. And, according to various reports last week, the Phoenix Suns have shown serious interest in acquiring the 26-year-old small forward, whose drafts rights were acquired by Memphis from Houston in July 2006.
Though the Grizzlies have faced continuous luxury tax issues in recent years — the team reportedly is more than $4 million over the league’s tax line — Paul said moving Gay at this stage in the season could prove ruinous in the coming months for a team that is considered a threat to come out of the West.
“Rudy is a big piece to that team,” said Paul, who is listed as day-to-day after sitting out Monday’s game because of contusion to his right knee he sustained in Saturday’s loss to Orlando. “Without him, they definitely have to make adjustments. You can’t replace Rudy with any one person in their locker room. They’d be crazy to trade Rudy.”
Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford, who was the catalyst of Monday’s win with a team-high 16 points off the bench, said while trading Gay would be a premature move by the Grizzlies, his presence elsewhere would be a considerable upgrade for whichever team lands him.
“It happens,” Crawford said. “I mean, it happened to me and Zach (Grizzlies power forward Randolph) in New York. I mean, I’m not in their business like that, so I don’t know why they would do it. Rudy is a heck of a player and anybody would be glad to have him.”