Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul publicly said last year that the Memphis Grizzlies “would be crazy” if they traded his close friend, Rudy Gay.
What does Gay thinks about Paul’s dauntless assessment?
“Well, I guess they’re crazy,” Gay jokingly told reporters following Wednesday morning’s shoot around in FedExForum, where his former team will host the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night at 7 CDT.
Back in Memphis for the first time since his trade from the Grizzlies on January 30, Gay appeared reluctant to say whether he felt his trade from Memphis has worked out for both the Grizzlies and Raptors.
“I don’t know,” said Gay who, after being shipped out of Memphis, set a franchise record by scoring 74 points in his first three games with the Raptors. “All I can comment about is Toronto Raptors basketball. “I think we got better. We’re continuing to get better. And, as far as the Grizzlies, I watched the team (during last year’s Western Conference finals). They played together as expected. They were a great team without me. But all I can worry about is the Toronto Raptors.”
Drafted with the eighth overall pick by the Houston Rockets in 2006 before he was ultimately traded to Memphis for Shane Battier and Stromile Swift, Gay spent the previous six-plus seasons with the Grizzlies before the organization addressed its dreaded luxury tax issues by shopping the former UConn star to the Raptors in a three-team deal that also involved the Detroit Pistons.
For Gay, the 27-year-old Baltimore native seemed to have found his niche for a Raptors team that boasts lofty aspirations of ending a six-year postseason drought. Gay currently is Toronto’s leading scorer, averaging better than 19 points per game. Also, he is averaging 35 minutes per outing, second only to DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors (3-5) trail Boston and Philadelphia by a one game in the Atlantic Division and, if the regular season ended today, Toronto would assume the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Gay, who signed a five-year extension with the Grizzlies in July 2010 worth a reported $82 million, became the center of constant trade talks weeks before the February 21 deadline last year and admittedly sensed that his tenure in Memphis was nearing an end.
“Because of my salary, somebody has to go,” Gay told MemphiSport in a January 7 interview.
However, on Wednesday, when asked how he felt how the Grizzlies new management handled his trade from Memphis, the former Grizzlies franchise player said he has effectively brought closer to that chapter in his career.
“You know, I pretty much said everything I’m going to say about that, so I won’t elaborate on that,” Gay said. “But all I can say is I’m in a good situation now and it’s great to be back (in Memphis). It’s where I started. Obviously, it’s good to play against the guys. I’ll just have to keep my composure.”
Displaying a sense of calmness likely will be difficult for Gay to manage once he is greeted by fans and former teammates with whom he had built a solid rapport throughout his professional career, Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
“It’s very difficult,” Casey said. “Guys can try and play it off all they want to. It’s very difficult to do that in the fact that you’ve spent so many years here. It’s human nature that you have some sentimental value to people when they see you coming in the door…policemen, security, and now you come in and try to play against them. It’s a difficult feel, but some guys have to go through that. You know, for me, it was difficult. But after that, it’s just a game.
“Rudy is one of the finest men in the NBA. No one can ever question his character. I think he’ll get a great reception from the fans in Memphis and I’ll be surprised if it’s anything different.”