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Is Rudy Gay Done in Memphis?

I know, the simple answer to the "Is Rudy Gay done in Memphis?" question is, "Yes, but then again all basketball in Memphis and elsewhere is done! The NBA-colypse is upon us!" 

OK, now relax. The NBA will return... sometime next year. And double relax, because when the NBA does return, so too will Rudy Gay and his tenure in Memphis. 

There seems to be a new chorus of experts, prognosticators and fans alike who believe that the Rudy Gay era in Memphis is all but over, really even before it started. The chorus really did get louder once the Grizzlies shocked the world by taking a Gay-less team to being a Game-7-loss-to-the-Thunder away from playing in the Western Conference Finals. You have to wonder, though, had they not beaten the Spurs in the first round would we be talking about... Ah, never mind. Of course we wouldn't. We'd be pining for Rudy Gay to return! So why now? Why are people so wrapped up in sending Rudy Gay packing? Just because we won a few playoff games?

My belief is that this new song and dance we're all partaking in will die down, once we have something more substantial to talk about. Like, a 6-game winning streak to start the 2011-12 2012 season?   

I received an email this week from NBA writer Martin Knezevic, of blogNBAsketball.com, tipping me to his piece on Rudy Gay and what Knezevic believes to be the final days of the Gay-era in Memphis. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the piece and probably agreed with a majority of what he wrote. My belief, however, is that the impact of getting Gay back in the mix next season is being downplayed a little, as well is the fact that trading someone like Gay is a near impossible task, and will probably be even harder to do so once the new CBA is signed. 

We need to remember, as amazing as the Grizzlies playoff-run was, it also happened to be a perfect storm. The first-round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs was a god-send. Manu Ginobili, banged up. Tim Duncan, no longer, well, Tim Duncan. The Spurs lacking anyone like, say Kevin Durant, who can take over a game and simply shoot us off the court was evident as the Grizzlies played a classic Spurs-like game against a Spurs team who played more of a Grizzlies-like series. How wild is that?

It was simply a best-case-scenario for the Grizzlies to meet with the Spurs in the first round. In fact, we all said so at the time. And, to that point, didn't we say, after Game 7 against the Thunder, that if we had a healthy Rudy Gay we might have been able to hang with the Thunder in, oh, I don't know, Game 4 when we were unable to close out OKC in OT1, OT2 and even hang with them in OT3. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, but... it woulda been nice to have a scorer like Rudy Gay in said instance. 

I like Tony Allen as much as the next guy and I was on board when the Grizzlies traded for Shane Battier. I also lauded O.J. Mayo for his "moments" in the playoffs (Game 6 against the Thunder!). But, there is no reasonable argument to be made that the Grizzlies were or are better off without Rudy Gay. I think we forget, or at least some people forget, that before his injury Gay was having arguably his best and most complete season to date. So too, really, were the Grizzlies who at the time were 30-24. 

You can make the argument that if it weren't for Gay's injury we wouldn't have seen the development of Tony Allen as a major cog on our team. Fair point. But I can argue that if it weren't for Rudy Gay's injury, coupled with the lagging effort from O.J. Mayo, we wouldn't have had to see Sam Young as a placeholder in the starting lineup on a playoff-bound team. No Gay meant more Young. The Tony Allen experiment was fast-passed due in part to the Gay injury, but really we can get on Lionel Hollins here for not making the call to bring both Young and Mayo off the bench prior to the Gay injury. Lest we forget, as dynamic as Tony Allen is on defense, he's also a liability on offense.

I would gladly, I mean GLADLY go to battle this season with Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol as my starting five. 

Knezevic points out, "They went to the 2nd round of the playoffs without one wing scorer." Fair point. But then again, this team was pushed to its limits, without one wing scorer. And if as Grizzlies fans you're content with a 2nd round outing in the playoffs, sure, they probably don't need Gay to lose in the playoffs. And I appreciate the effort of trying to find trade partners for Gay, but this leads me to my second point. 

There is no way the Grizzlies will be able to trade Rudy Gay for anything usable. No way. Gay is owed $70 million through the 2015 season. Good luck trying to convince someone, ANYONE to take on that contract. Today's game, with teams losing money and with about 2-thirds of the league fighting over limiting payroll, not adding it, there's no way the Grizzlies will find a partner willing to take on $70 million, especially for anything of value. Do you want Baron Davis for the next two seasons? Maybe Cleveland would give up Antawn Jamison to get a young star like Gay. I bet the Hawks might give you $100 million worth of Joe Johnson for him. Gilbert Arenas is owed $60 million over the next three years! How would he look in Memphis?  

Like I said, in the current state of the NBA, you never see players with big-money, long-term deals moved for value. If Gay was on the last year of his contract, sure I could see him being moved. And even if the Grizzlies do find suitors, again, they'll have to take back an Arenas or a Baron Davis or... something we don't want. 

Yes, the Grizzlies had the best season of their young franchise and it came all while Rudy Gay was sitting on the bench. But that was then, and no longer will being outed in the 2nd round of the playoffs quench our newfound "we deserve better than this" mantra. It's all about making a run for the title, something the Grizzlies, as currently constructed, are set up to do.

With Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies are a championship contender. Without him, they're just a playoff team without a scoring wing. That's not good enough for us Grizzlies fans who feel a entitled to much more than a handful of playoff wins.