RUDY CARLTON GAY, JR
Just look at his build! He's an athletic freak!
He can create his shot ANYWHERE on the floor!
Whose going to take the big, clutch shots for us?
How will we ever end up on a Sportcenter highlight reel again?
We came into this 2012-2013 season with very high hopes for Rudy Gay, and a belief that being a year+ removed from his shoulder injury would allow him to finally blossom into the superstar demigod we always wanted him to be.
Spoiler Alert: That didn't happen.
The season did start off fluidly for the agile swingman. There's no doubt he helped the Grizzlies off to the best start in franchise history, going 12-2 in the first month (and a day). Rudy shot a career high in 3P% that month (in spite of shooting a career low in FG%). It looked like Rudy might finally be playing into his role on the Grizzlies by stretching the floor with thoughtful shots and attacking the rim when teams played him too close. When you go 12-2 there just aren't going to be a lot of problems coming up to discuss, so if there were still those major-Rudy-pitfalls, it was very hard to notice during the first month of the season. Mostly because of things like this:
That's just so awesome. How can you not love that as an NBA fan and especially as a Griz fan?
Well, I'll tell you how. After a honeymoon of a first month it started becoming apparent that there was an issue with chemistry at the starting small forward position. I documented Rudy's ill-fit with the Grizzlies later in the season; differences that Rudy had reiterated with brash, emotional comments. Rudy still had issues handling the ball, and I mean severe issues. Not only was he continuing to scrape his own nipples with the ball when he dribbled, he was actually making a plea to Coach Hollins to allow him more opportunities to bring the ball up court and be the primary handler. And when an offensive set didn't call for Rudy to be "the man", you could still see Rudy standing over on the perimeter with his shoulders drooped and his hands on his hips, signaling his disinterest in seeking the offensive rebounds (that was reinforced by his career low in the statistical category).
Gay would still amaze us with his highflying feats and acrobatic tomahawk slams (of which I am still a huge fan). But as January crept forward, the rustling of trade rumors and luxury tax began infiltrating the locker room and the city as a whole. Rudy shot an abysmal 39%-23% in Jan, and the 4+ turnover games started popping up much more frequently. He couldn't get out of his own way, and his 16+ shots a game were draining any offensive momentum the Grizzlies were capable of producing. Rudy would try and shake off all the rumors, but by mid-January you could tell the whole trade situation (and unfortunate death of his grandmother) was affecting his performance and concentration. However, amongst the turmoil he was still able to give us this:
Most Grizzlies' fans thought the salary dump trade of Speights, Ellington and Selby was intended to act as a luxury tax buffer that would keep our core intact for one more postseason run, but on January 31st 2013 Rudy Carlton Gay, Jr was traded to the Toronto Raptors. What happened after that is inconsequential to the grade given by this article, but just so everyone knows: we got better on both sides of the ball and went to the Western Conference Finals. We traded the piece that started the Reformation in 2006 and led to the Renaissance of the Grizzlies in 2011 (albeit without Rudy). We removed what had become a polarizing piece in the Bluff City and cemented our future around stalwarts like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.
I wish I could say that's where the grading ends. After all, Rudy is on another team from February on forward, but Grizznosity, my friends, is something that is eternal and omnipresent. Grizznosity transcends where you are and for whom you play. Grizznosity is about the person.
He was asked on a Toronto sports talk show called Off The Record (which is ironically very on the record):
(Off the Record) What will you miss most in Memphis, the chips or the barbecue?
(Rudy Gay) Nothing.
Oh? Hmm, okay. I guess you were just angry since you got traded from a contender to a team that needs you to pull them from 6 games back in the playoff hunt. So you're done now, right? Wait.. more? USA Today:
It was a total shock to me. I never went to any of (the new management) and told them that I wanted to be traded. I've never done that. The summer before, I did. I said this team has a chance to be a competitor in the West, and we're going to be good, but if you plan on doing anything - this is the summer before - I said I want to express to you that I may be wanting to move on.
And this was with Chris Wallace ... I wanted to see it through, because we started so well. We were playing so great as a team, it kind of made me feel like this is it. This could be the chance for us. There's not too many times when you can build a team like that. Obviously financial stuff goes on, but when you build a team like that you have to see it through.
Yeah, going into the season (the style concerns) were part of the reason why (his willingness to be traded) came up. It was like, 'if we're not going to make a run at this championship, then while I'm still young I want a chance to be able to do everything I can do.' I felt like I was playing a role, and I was.
It was a post-dominated team, and I didn't get a chance to have a guy who you could say was a stone-cold guy who you went to all the time. A couple games it'd be Marc, then it'd be me, and then it'd be Zach, you know what I mean? So at that point, I was like, 'I want to see what I can do with an open floor.' And I got that (in Toronto), but as long as we were winning, I'd like to see myself as a great teammate. And as long as we're winning, I'll do whatever, just be on the perimeter and open the floor for the big fellas, then that's what I'll do.
What? What in the hell does all that mean? So you wanted a trade before the season because you were playing a role, but once you realized we were contending you wanted to stay on? And what's that about as long as you're winning you'd like to see yourself as a great teammate? What happens when you're not winning?
Then this bit from Yahoo Sports:
(Rudy Gay told Yahoo! Sports that he wished the Memphis Grizzlies' new ownership had given him a chance to show he was worth a big-money extension before it traded him to the Toronto Raptors.)
You have to give me a chance to see if I'm worth that.
I needed a new situation. A new task. I needed a new task with something I could grasp, something I could take over. I need to be challenged. I was challenged in Memphis, but it was tug-of-war at times. Here I'm being challenged, and they're seeing what I'm made of.
Ahh, so by challenged you mean "able to do whatever I want." (Seriously, go ahead and replace the word "challenge" and "challenged" with that phrase and read it again.)
Saved the best for last, there's this that came out from the Raptors' GM after the season:
He also mentioned Gay has vision issues that require correction in an interview on TSN Radio with myself and Dave Naylor; an NBA source says Gay has required contact lenses for years, but has refused to wear them, and could not get comfortable with goggles this season. Since his biggest problem is his shooting, maybe there is a medical way to turn him into the all-star Colangelo desires. When you're trying to hit threes, it helps if the rim appears in focus.
Ya think!?! You mean there's a chance that seeing an opening into which you're trying to throw an object might give you a better chance of accomplishing said action?! So there's a chance Rudy is Kevin Durant, but because his dumbass wouldn't wear his contacts he couldn't see well enough to shoot better than 40%?! AUUUGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!
Well now that I'm thoroughly pissed off from writing this piece, let's do the grading.
- Production - C- (career low averages across the board, save 0.1 of a rebound and 0.6 of an assist)
- General Grizznosity - F+ (only thing saving him from Super F was the Ginobili dunk)
- Clutch Performance - B-
Final Grade - D+
Okay, now that I've gotten all my anger out, I must admit that Rudy was my favorite player for a while. It was a bitter divorce, but we were justified after our postseason success (and after beating the Raptors via an amazing Rudy Gay choke job). When it's said and done, I'd sign Rudy back to the Grizzlies for $8 million a year and never blink twice.
Cheers to ya, Flight #22.