The fans love him. The critics love him (kind of). His teammates love him. And head coach Mike Malone has gushed over him since day one. For Rudy Gay it’s the type of praise usually heaped onto the franchise player. As a part of the Toronto Raptors Gay was, but these days he is just happy to be back to his old self.
“I just think in Toronto we didn’t have enough time to actually get rolling. Here I’m just back to being me, that’s all.” Gay told ESPN. When asked to elaborate Gay offered this: “Coach [Mike Malone] is putting me in different situations. He’s trusting me with the ball.” That trust really was earned from day one.
Since joining the Sacramento Kings mid-season Gay has improved upon his dismal year with Toronto. His field goal percentage has spiked to 57 percent—up from 38 percent— since joining the team. Rudy’s free-throw shooting has also jumped from 77 percent to 83 percent. And that’s no mistake according to Kings ownership.
Owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Pete D’Alessandro used a seriously complicated analytic computation that crunched Gay’s numbers and concluded that his stats would jump up with Sacramento based on many scenarios like his ability to use the pick and roll and how often he would score as a second and third option.
But as the season draws to a close Rudy must decide whether to return and play out his contract or seek a team that’s possibly closer to a title run than Sacramento. If he bolts Gay will leave $19 million on the table. The talk has taken a toll on Rudy, but he maintains he’s open to an extension. Gay said:
“I’m not sure. I have to go into the summer with my people, think about everything, weigh out the pros and cons. I don’t know yet. But Sacramento’s been great to me thus far. Obviously I’m trying to tune it all out right now. All I can think about right now is how great Sacramento’s been to me.”
This city and its fans fought to keep their beloved team from moving and ended up winning; can they do the same with Rudy? I think they can. Kings ownership has quite a few problems to fix this offseason, but their priority will be signing Gay to an extension. However, if Gay does leave there is a list of players the Kings should look at.
With a new arena and a second offseason under new management, Gay could be an important part of the Kings’ rebuild. He may have to regain his ‘franchise’ tag, but I think he’ll soldier through it if it means consistent wins.