Former Grizz Rudy Gay aiming to regain form since his recent trade to Sacramento

Rudy Gay arrived in Memphis late Wednesday night, hours after the Sacramento Kings’ win at Minnesota.

He was delighted to have returned to the place he still calls home.

MORE TO PROVE --- Following Friday's shootaround in FedExForum, recently-acquired Kings swingman Rudy Gay said he's adjusting comfortably in his new role for Sacramento, which is 8-9 since adding the former Grizzlies star in last month. (Photos by Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

MORE TO PROVE — Following Friday’s shootaround in FedExForum, recently-acquired Kings swingman Rudy Gay said he’s adjusting comfortably in his new role for Sacramento, which is 8-9 since adding the former Grizzlies star last month. (Photos by Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

So much, in fact, that Gay was in attendance in FedExForum for Thursday night’s game between UConn and the University of Memphis.

Sitting a couple rows behind the Huskies’ bench sporting a UConn cap, Gay described his latest visit to Memphis coupled with his alma mater’s win against the nationally-ranked Tigers as a “perfect” situation, one that seemed unlikely at the start of the season.

That’s because Gay at the time was a member of the Toronto Raptors, who acquired the 6-foot-8 swingman last January in a three-deal after he spent five-plus seasons in Memphis. As Gay tells it, joining the Raptors was seemingly a “better situation,” in large part because this season was filled with much promise after Toronto finished strong last year with an 18-18 mark after adding Gay to its roster.

However, Gay’s subpar numbers in which he shot a frigid 38.8 percent from the field coupled with his massive contract — the former UConn star is expected to earn around $17.9 million this year — prompted Raptors management to act swiftly, thus resulting in the Baltimore native becoming the centerpiece of a seven-player deal that ultimately landed him with the Kings, who play the Grizzlies here Friday night at 7 CST.

Given Gay’s rather sanguine disposition following Friday’s shootaround in FedExForum in which he often joked and laughed with reporters, it’s safe to assume the former Grizzlies franchise player is adjusting comfortably with his new team, one that has played with much energy since his unceremonious arrival to Sacramento. For starters, the Kings have managed to hover around the .500 mark since acquiring Gay Dec. 9, having won eight of 17 games although they would have to make up much ground the second half of the season in order to secure a playoff spot.

“It’s tough because so much change has happened during the season, but we’re battling through it,” Gay told reporters after Friday’s shootaround.

Among Gay’s grandest battles in his brief time in Sacramento was surviving the wrath of Kings first-year coach Michael Malone. Following a Dec. 23 home loss to New Orleans, Malone not only said the Kings were a “bad basketball team,” but Gay was among the players he publicly called out for committing a team-worst six turnovers in the 13-point defeat.

According to Gay, such criticism was warranted, as were the harsh assessments that surfaced prior to his recent trade.

Since joining Sacramento in seven-player trade Dec. 9, Gay has emerged as the Kings' second leadings scoring, averaging 20.8 per page, while shooting 52 percent from the field.

Since joining Sacramento in seven-player trade Dec. 9, Gay has emerged as the Kings’ second leadings scoring, averaging 20.8 per page, while shooting 52 percent from the field.

 

“He’s the coach,” said Gay, explaining Malone’s recent public ripping of the Kings. “I have no problems with him. He’s the coach. He wants the best for us and that’s how we approached it.”

Gay, to his credit, has since become the catalyst of a Sacramento team that is starting to hit its stride during a pivotal stretch in the season. Having started each of the 17 games since joining the team, Gay is currently the Kings’ second-leading scorer (20.8) behind DeMarcus Cousins (23.4). What’s more impressive for the Kings, winners of four of their last five, is that Gay’s field goal percentage has increased mightily since his relocation to the West Coast.

He’s shooting 52 percent from the field, which tops the rest of the Kings’ starters.

“We feel very fortunate to have him,” Malone said. “He’s a low-key kind of guy. I don’t know how much of a common influence he is, but he’s been a very good player for us. He’s been very efficient for us. Obviously, we put him out there with Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins and that gives us players who can score at a high level, an efficient level. I think he was unfairly beaten and criticized about his time in Toronto. The fact that he’s scoring 20 points a game every night, making 52 percent of his shots, and rebounding makes him a complete player. He’s an efficient player and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.”

While the 27-year-old Gay has yet to say whether he will exercise his player option next season in which he is scheduled to make in the neighborhood of $19.3 million, he hinted that his primary objective moving forward is help revitalize the Kings as a relevant NBA foe, let along continue to silence the slew of naysayers who sensed his career was at a crossroads amid his recent trade to Sacramento.

So far, so good.

“I mean, the criticism…it is what it is,” Gay said. “Honestly, I wasn’t playing well. The same things they were talking about before, they’re not talking about it now.”

What better setting to profess such a dauntless declaration than the place he still calls home?

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist

Former Grizzlies star Rudy Gay: ‘I’m in a good situation now in Toronto’

WALKING IN MEMPHIS --- Former Grizzlies star Rudy Gay (left) will play against his former team Wednesday for the first time in Memphis since he was traded by the organization in January. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

WALKING IN MEMPHIS — Former Grizzlies star Rudy Gay (center) will play against his former team Wednesday for the first time in Memphis since he was traded by the organization in January. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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.

AIR CANADA --- Through eight games, Gay has emerged as the Raptors' top scorer, averaging 19.3 points per game. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

AIR CANADA — Through eight games, Gay has emerged as the Raptors’ top scorer, averaging 19.3 points per outing. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

VIDEO: Wale mentions current and past Grizzlies players in a new Juicy J song

Rapper Wale recently collaborated with Juicy J on the hit song “Bounce It”, and according to the rapper out of Washington, D.C. he has tickets to Grizzlies games whenever he comes to Memphis.  If you start listening at around the 1:45 mark, you hear Wale state that he gets his tickets from Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, or Josh Selby when he is in town.

The song came out nearly five months after the trades that sent Gay to Toronto and Selby to the Cavs.

Now that Gay and Selby are no longer with the Grizzlies, Wale will have to rely solely on Gasol to get him the highly coveted Grizzlies floor seats.

Watch Wale shout out the Grizzlies:

Twitter: @churtj09
Email: cj@memphisport.com

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Rudy Gay wonders why Lionel Hollins still doesn’t have a job

Is Rudy Gay not shocked that his former coach Lionel Hollins remains on the unemployment line? Or did Gay typo last night when he was on Twitter?

While randomly commenting on Hollins’ job status, it appears the former Memphis Grizzlies forward accidentally tweeted “can” when he meant “can’t.”

You be the judge:

Rudy Tweet About Hollins

Twitter: @cerrito
Email: kevin@memphisport.com

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5 reasons to believe the Grizzlies can beat the Clippers this postseason

Mike Conley has to play better than he did in game seven against the Clippers last year for Memphis to have a chance to win this year's series.  He was just 2-13 from the field and 0-2 from three in the decisive game seven last year.  Photo by Justin Ford

Mike Conley has to play better than he did in game seven against the Clippers last year for Memphis to have a chance to win this year’s series. He was just 2-13 from the field and 0-2 from three in the decisive game seven last year. Photo by Justin Ford

 

It is hard to believe that the once lowly Los Angeles Clippers are despised villains in any NBA city, but that is what they have become in Memphis.  Another loss to them in the NBA playoffs might make some Grizzlies fans consider Grizzicide (the act of switching allegiance from the hometown Grizzlies to another playoff team, basically a bandwagoner).

The teams are basically the same this year as they were last year.  Sure the Grizzlies are without Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo and Marreese Speights, but the Clippers are without Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans (perhaps the most despised Clipper from last year’s series).

With the teams compiled of most of the same players from last year’s playoffs why should anyone expect a different result in this year’s series? Here are five reasons to believe there will be a different result for Memphis in this year’s playoff matchup with the Clippers.

1.  No Rudy Gay
Now to pin the entire fact that Memphis lost last season’s first round matchup to the Clipper’s entirely on Gay would be unfair to him, and too easy.  After all, OJ Mayo also struggled (averaged nine points in the playoffs, which was well less than his 12.6 points per game during the regular season), Zach Randolph was less than 100 percent, and the bench was outperformed for most of the series. However, shooting 21 percent from three and taking ill-advised shot after ill-advised shot during the series only adds fuel to the arguments of the Gay detractors.  While Gay is an adequate offensive option, Coach Hollins relied on him too often to bail the team out as the shot clock expired, and ran too many isolation plays for him during last year’s playoffs.  As the focal point of the offense during last year’s series Gay led the team in scoring four times.  The Grizzlies record with Gay as the leading scorer was 1-3.  Now that there is no Gay the offense will have to flow thru the two bigs for the Grizzlies, which is the best option for them this year, and was the best option last year.  In the three Memphis wins last year Gasol and Randolph averaged 35 points per game, while in the four losses they averaged just 24 points.

2.  Improved defense
It might be hard to believe, but the Grizzlies defense has improved on their 93 points allowed per game from last season.  This year’s squad is allowing a league best 89.3 points per game, and is as tenacious a defense as you will find in the NBA.  They are in the top three of the NBA in opponent’s field goal and three point percentage, and fourth in the association in steals.  The acquisition of Tayshaun Prince gives Memphis a nice boost on the defensive end as well.  Points are already hard to come by in a playoff series, and when you add to this the fact Memphis has one of the stingiest defenses in the NBA, L.A. may find themselves struggling to get points more in this year’s playoff matchup than they did last year.

3.  More playoff experience
With this being the Grizzlies third consecutive year in the playoffs, the newness of it all should be gone.  Sure Mayo, Gay, and Hamed Haddadi (which random unathletic big will Hollins put in with the game on the line now?) are no longer on the team, but five players who contribute significant minutes are back from last year’s brief run, and four of them (Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Randolph, and Gasol) were also on the team during the Grizzlies epic run two years ago.  Adding to the playoff experience is Prince, who was an integral piece to the puzzle during the Detroit Pistons run of the early 2000’s.  With all of this experience Memphis should remain poised during the highs and lows of the series.  They have experienced enough during their playoff tenures that they should know what to do whether they are up 27 points (as was the case during game one against the Clippers last year) or down 27 (like they were against Oklahoma City during game five two years ago).

4.  Healthy Zach Randolph
It is no secret that Z-Bo was significantly less than 100 percent during last year’s playoffs.  His knee injury seriously limited his effectiveness which was evident by his 13.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game during last season’s playoffs.  While he almost averaged a double-double last year in the playoffs, his numbers pale in comparison to his 2011 playoff run, which saw Mr. Don’t Bluff average 22.2 points and 10.8 rebounds.  This year Randolph is not only at 100 percent, but he looks like he is in the best shape of his career and ready to do some serious damage in the playoffs.  He averaged 14.8 points and 12 rebounds in four regular season games against the Clippers this year, but you can expect him to turn it up a notch and resemble 2011 Z-Bo during this playoff series.

5.  Possible home game six on Music Fest Friday
Some of you may be wondering why this matters, and honestly when I found out about it I wondered the same thing.  For those of you who are thinking it is just another game in the series, you could not be more wrong.  This year’s possible game six will be on the same day, at the same place as game six in 2011, which saw Memphis close out the Spurs and win the franchise’s first ever playoff series.  Fate could be on the Grizzlies side this season.  Let’s hope so, because Chris Paul and the Clippers will not be.

CJ Hurt covers NBA basketball for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from games.

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AUDIO: Lionel Hollins gives ‘State of the Grizzlies Address’ prior to Warriors game

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

After going 1-3 since the Rudy Gay trade and getting criticized locally and nationally, Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins made a special address to the Memphis media prior to Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors.

AUDIO:

Click here to listen to the full Lionel Hollins address thanks to our friends at Sports 56/87.7 FM.

For live coverage from next week’s All-Star game in Houston, follow MemphiSport’s Grizzlies writer Andre Johnson @aj_journalist and look for his stories at MemphiSport.com

SEE ALSO: Famous Raptors fan who went nuts on YouTube reacts to Rudy Gay trade on MSL

MSL Exclusive: Famous Raptors fan who went nuts on YouTube reacts to Rudy Gay trade

Happy Rudy Gay Raptors

Raptors fan/viral video star Happy joined Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter on MSL to talk about how he reacted when he heard the news that Rudy Gay was traded to Toronto.

AUDIO:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Click here to download Happy the Raptors fan’s interview from the February 2, 2012 MSL

SEE ALSO: MSL’s original interview with Happy the Raptors fan who went nuts after Rudy Gay’s game winner

VIDEO: Watch what made “Happy the Raptors fan” a YouTube star (**WARNING: Explicit Language**)

Click here for more MSL interviews.

Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter host MemphiSport Live (MSL) on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. MSL was voted 3rd Best Sports Radio Show in the 2010, 2011 & 2012 Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis poll.

Follow the MSL hosts on Twitter @cerrito @marcus_hunter

MSL: 2.2.13

BOM MSL 2012HOUR 1:

(Segment 1) Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter discuss the Rudy Gay trade and the debut of all the new Grizzlies players
(Segment 2) OMG Insider co-host Kevin Frazier joins the guys live from New Orleans to preview the big game.
(Segment 3) Shenanigans.

MemphiSport Live
HOUR 2:

(Segment 1) Hang Up & Listen.
(Segment 2) Raptors fan/viral video star “Happy” joins Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter to talk about how he reacted when he heard the news that Rudy Gay was traded to Toronto.
(Segment 3) Woohoos and Boos

Click here for more MSL interviews.

Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter host MemphiSport Live (MSL) on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. MSL was voted 3rd Best Sports Radio Show in the 2010, 2011 & 2012 Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis poll.

Follow the MSL hosts on Twitter @cerrito @marcus_hunter

Photos: Traded players debut for Grizzlies and Raptors

Use #GrizzNation or #gotigersgo on all your Grizzlies and Tigers tweets and instagrams to increase your odds of being included in our social media stories at MemphiSport.com.


SEE ALSO:  Photos: Media and fans react to Rudy Gay trade

Kevin Cerrito is the managing editor of MemphiSport and host of MSL every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM. MSL was voted 3rd Best Sports Radio Show in the 2010, 2011 & 2012 Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis poll.  Follow him @cerrito.

Top 5 Moments Of Rudy Gay’s Grizzlies Career

Rudy Gay was traded in a three team deal that sent him and Hamed Haddadi to Toronto.

Rudy Gay was traded in a three team deal that sent him and Hamed Haddadi to Toronto. (Photo by Chris Evans)

It finally happen.  Rudy Gay has been traded, getting Memphis under the luxury tax, and making them more flexible financially.  Gay started his career in Memphis and was the longest tenured Grizzlies player on the team.  He was the face of the franchise, holding the all-time record for games played (479) and minutes played (17338) as a member of the Grizzlies. However, he was not living up to his max contract, and with Memphis on the verge of having to pay a luxury tax he had to be dealt.There is no more speculation about where he will go, or talk about how he is not living up to his max contract.  Gay gave fans several great moments, and now that he is gone, we should all take a step back and reflect on the good times Gay has given the fans on the court.

Charity game
With the NBA lockout in full force, Gay found a way to give fans some of the professional basketball action that they so desperately craved.  He put on a charity game highlighted by NBA superstars Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Tyreke Evans, with all proceeds going to his Flight 22 Foundation. Gay’s team lost 158-151, but he led all scorers with 45 points and countless jaw dropping dunks.  It might not have been a NBA game, but the fact he was able to bring his superstar buddies to Memphis showed how much he cared about the community, and it certainly gave us a very memorable moment.

The ”Make your own luck” game
His headband curse is infamous.  It seems like every time Gay wears one, he plays poorly.  However, on January 23, 2012, after trainers poked fun at him for his performance while wearing a headband, Gay decided to wear one against the Golden State Warriors.  The Grizzlies were down by 20 points with 3:43 left in the third quarter, and the Warriors were supposed to cruise to a big win.  Yet that is not what happened, thanks in part to Gay’s performance.  He led the team with 23 points (19 in the second half), and when Memphis needed a bucket to ice the game, Gay connected on a beautiful fade-away jump shot with just 22 seconds left in the game.  He did more than just score that night, he was a play maker and a facilitator.  It was one of those nights where he looked like a max player, as he helped lead a furious comeback to get a solid victory for Memphis.  Then after the game, with a grin on his face, he showed us that infectious charisma of his and uttered quite possibly the most famous words of his life, “Kids out there, make your own luck.”

“No not this guy!” shot against the Raptors
It is ironic that one of Gay’s most memorable moments has come against the team that he is now a member.  The score was 98-98 with just 18.1 seconds left the game with Gay inbounding the ball, which is all very routine.  He hits Mike Conley, gets a down screen from Marc Gasol, and catches the Conley pass at the top of the key, which is still very routine. With time dwindling on the game clock Gay takes two dribbles to his right, elevates, and hits his patented jumper with almost no time left, which is still part of the routine.  That shot is his go to move, his length makes it difficult to contest, and the Raptors should have expected it.  So why is this very routine shot against the lowly Raptors one of Gay’s most memorable moments?

Well unbeknownst to Gay, the Raptors, or any of us there was a fan recording the final seconds of the game.  When Gay touches the ball, you can hear the panic, fear, and general displeasure in the fan’s voice,  “No it’s Rudy Gay!  Not this Guy!  Not this guy,” as Gay hits the game winning jump shot. The fan’s reaction is hilarious (Watch the NSFW video), and it is a moment that will live on forever in Grizzlies lore.

UPDATE: Famous Raptors fan who went nuts on YouTube reacts to Rudy Gay trade on MSL

41 point game
On December 13, 2009 Gay scored 40 plus points for the first and only time in his career, setting a career high in points against the Heat.  He was unstoppable, hitting 15-28 shots from the field and 3-4 from three.  Memphis was a remarkable plus 35 points with him on the court, as he literally had his way the Heat.  It was one of those games where Gay showed why he was becoming one of the NBA’s top up and coming young talents, and why it might be worth paying big bucks to keep him.  Memphis did just that, signing him to a max deal, but he just never lived up to his contract and he is now a member of the Toronto Raptors.

Game winner over Lebron James
Another game winner tops the list of most memorable Gay moments.  This time it comes against one of the best players in the NBA, Lebron James.  After James tied the game thanks to a Gay turnover, it seemed like the contest was going into overtime.  There was just 5.5 seconds left on the clock, and momentum was strictly in the Heat’s favor.  It was a tough night for Gay, who James had effectively took out of the game on the offensive end.  Before the game winning shot, Gay was just 4-12 from the field and 0-3 from behind the arch.  However, that did not deter him, and with the game on the line Gay rose up over James and hit the game winner as time expired.  It was a good day to be Gay and a good day for Grizzlies fans everywhere.

CJ Hurt covers NBA basketball for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from games.

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