ESPN The Mag dropped a veritable Memphis bomb today, actually giving Rudy Gay not one but two sentences in a recent article about the NBA Draft. The theme was, get ready to be shocked and appalled, "JOCKS TAKE OVER THE MAGAZINE!" I read it the first day mainly because of a cover shot of Maria Sharapova looking fine on the cover. Am I the only one that thought she was hotter before she got good? Cream of the crop players lose the looks because they get ripped. God Sharapova could kick D12 through a wall with those thighs.
In the feature where players were allowed to run a mock draft for their teams, Gay selected Hasheem Thabeet with the number 2 pick on the grounds that, "He's a husky." With the late first-rounder Gay picked DeJuan Summers on the grounds that "'He's from Baltimore, so you know he's tough!'" Of course it's impossible to know how serious Gay was picking Thabeet and Summers from the standpoint of actually improving the team, but I'm going to unfairly unpack his statements anyhow.
Let me begin by saying I love Gay; he's my favorite player on Memphis, and easily within my top 10 favorite players in the entire league. In fact his freewheeling, oftentimes borderline childish attitude is part of why I love Gay so much. He brings excellent spirit and excitement to the floor when he's having fun, and seems to have fun on the court more often than any other player in the league.
But honestly it's difficult to recommend his flippant attitude in a league where winners are most often cold-blooded killers. Kobe makes faces, Dwight Howard elbows opponents, LeBron's stare would put Eastwood to shame, and Chris Paul punches other players in the balls. All these players still have fun with the time is right; LBJ and D12 might joke around more than any other player in the league. Still they know when to turn on the killer instinct, and relish in the opportunity to do so on the world's biggest basketball stage. They enjoy goofing around, but they live to fiercly compete.
At this point it's unlikely that Gay will ever develop the understanding of how to merge these two mindset, which should never be in conflict. Crunch time on the court is time for explosive fury; the bench and locker room are places for comedy. It's something he's struggled with for his entire career, oftentimes disappearing even at UConn when he was oftentimes heads to tails the most skilled and tallest player on the floor.
But the Grizzlies need Gay to assert himself to fully reach potential. OJ Mayo is not Kobe Bryant; he cannot carry the team in crunch time yet. Moreover, the idea that even Kobe Bryant or LeBron can assume full closing duties is quickly becoming ridiculous. LBJ's Herculean heroics obviously took a toll on his energy levels through the playoffs, and the Lakers looked better when Kobe was open to facilitating in the fourth. Rudy has all the tools to be absolutely destructive in the 4th; he is an excellent 1-on-1 player, and can run the pick and roll in both the handling and screening roles. Finally consider most lower-tier teams dead in water in the off chance that Rudy drops one of his monster dunks. Simply put to be an effective #2 for the young, stoic Mayo, Gay must both keep his personality and style as a player who still loves to have fun, but has fun te most fun while winning.
Full disclosure: This post is all prep-work for the next, more substantial offering.