- HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors - http://www.hoopsworld.com -
Gay Finds Friends, Freedom With Raptors
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On February 5, 2013 @ 7:00 pm In All,NBA | No Comments
Bryan Colangelo finally got his star when he acquired small forward Rudy Gay this past week. The 26-year-old Gay is in his seventh NBA season and has been a borderline All-Star since his sophomore year. The Memphis Grizzlies were ready to part ways with Gay and his maximum contract and the Toronto Raptors were happy to take him off their hands. This was the player Colangelo had been targeting for quite awhile and the biggest surprise may have been that the deal was completed a full three weeks before the trade deadline and just days after Memphis had resolved this season’s luxury tax issues with an earlier trade.
Gay arrived in Toronto after a whirlwind of activity that saw him leave his former teammates on the road to get home, get packed and get on a plane in time to complete his part of the three-team transaction so he could play for the Raptors on Friday night. However, Gay knew what he was getting into and this trade had been foreshadowed by his friends in Toronto.
“Oklahoma City to Memphis to Toronto to play on the same day,” Gay said. “Not to mention packing my dogs up, packing clothes up, it’s a lot to move.
“Before the trade even happened, I asked [Kyle Lowry], ‘What do you think about the team?’ He told me, ‘If you get here, we have a chance.’ That is what made me comfortable about being here.”
“I have known Rudy for a couple of years now,” DeMar DeRozan said. “Jokingly, we said this summer we were going to play together. It’s just crazy.”
After playing his entire NBA career in Memphis until now, Gay has a surprising number of friends on the Raptors, most significantly his best friend Lowry. Gay has known Lowry since the eighth grade and they played their first two and a half NBA seasons together in Memphis. They also train together every summer at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas.
“We were both thrown into the fire early as 19-year-old kids,” Gay said of he and Lowry. “We didn’t know anything about this league. Now that we are back together and been through different teams and been through playoffs runs, we both know how to win and how to play.
“I have known Alan [Anderson], I have known DeMar and I have known Kyle for a long time. I have known Amir [Johnson]. That definitely made it easier. There are no people in here who are not welcoming. It has been an easy transition for me.”
An added benefit has been Gay’s reunion with Raptors assistant coach Johnny Davis. Davis was an assistant coach in Memphis for four seasons during Gay’s tenure. Davis has 36 years in the NBA as a player, assistant coach and executive with various teams. Gay has a lot of respect for the Raptors’ assistant coach.
“[Johnny Davis] knows me,” Gay said. “He knows what kind of player I am. He knows what kind of player I want to be. He knows how bad I want it. He knows how bad I want to win. [Davis] being here and having so much faith in me. I had been talking to him even after he came here. I have been talking to him for a while. I am just happy we are back together.”
The major criticism about Gay’s game has been the decline in his productivity over the past two seasons. While Gay was becoming a veteran player, his ability to express his maturing skill-set was being hampered by Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins’ half-court post-up game. However, with two of the league’s premier big men in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, it is hard to blame Hollins shifting away from a more athletic up and down style of play that suited Gay.
“That was a post team,” Gay said. “That is where the coach wanted us and we had two great players down there and that is how he wanted us to play. Memphis was definitely a different situation for me than being here. [Here] the floor is more spread. I can do more things. I can be more of a playmaker. I just have to find out where people want to be at different times.”
Gay will have the freedom to do more in Toronto. He will see more time as a combo-forward, playing at both the three and the four in the smaller lineups that Casey has been successful with this season. Anderson also practices with Gay at Impact Basketball in the summer and has seen the evolution of Gay’s skills, skills that are better suited to Toronto’s style of play.
“I know Rudy is going to help us out because I have trained with him,” Anderson said. “I know his demeanor. I know how he plays. I know his hard work, so I know he is going to help us out.
“He is more patient with his game. When he first came into the league, he was just a high flyer who came into the game and did amazing dunks, but now he is a complete player. He can get his own shot in the post and on the outside. That’s the good thing about having him. He is 6’9 and can handle the ball like a point guard and post up like a forward.”
Gay wants a quick return to the playoffs, but unlike Memphis, Toronto is not a playoff lock. It will take a herculean effort for the Raptors to overcome their brutal start to the season. However, Gay says he is up for the challenge and he plans on dragging some of fellow teammates’ level of play up along with his own.
“I take it as a challenge,” Gay said of making the playoffs in Toronto. “[In Memphis] we had our spot, all we could do was fall in the standings. Here it’s a challenge, we have to get there and it is going to take a lot to get there, but I still think we can do it. It is going to be a lot of hard work, but I think everybody here is dedicated and I definitely want to get back to the playoffs.”
“Kyle is a warrior and I am a warrior and when we are out there together, good things happen,” Gay added. “DeMar is a great player. He is by far the best two-guard I have ever played with. I told [DeRozan], I am going to make you better and I am going to hold myself to that.”
It has been less than a week since Gay arrived in Toronto and he still has a ways to go before learning all of his new team’s terminology, offensive and defensive sets and the preferences of his new teammates, but the start has been pretty impressive. Gay scored 20 points in Friday’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers and a season-high 29 points in the loss to the Miami HEAT while playing some impressive defensive against LeBron James for most of the game.
Being friends with three-fifths of the Raptors’ starting lineup has likely made the transition much easier than would normally be expected, but the freedom from the Grizzlies’ restrictive post game may have the biggest impact on Gay in the long run.
Article printed from HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors: http://www.hoopsworld.com
URL to article: http://www.hoopsworld.com/gay-finds-friends-and-freedom-with-raptors
Copyright © 2012 HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors
Part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.