Rudy Gay Makes Memphis Return

DON WADE | Special to The Daily News

The Toronto Raptors had just finished practice on the main court at FedExForum. Rudy Gay, long-time Grizzly and current Raptor (for now), sat in a folding chair courtside with a bag of ice on each knee. It was Tuesday afternoon, and less than 24 hours after a two-overtime loss at Houston in which Gay had played 49 minutes, put up 37 shots (making 11) and scored 29 points with 10 rebounds.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

“I had it going early and guys were looking for me to make baskets,” Gay said of his 37-shot game in Houston. “Sometimes they went in, and a little bit more than that they didn’t go in.”

In a lot of ways, that would sum up the small forward’s six years in Memphis. He could score in bunches. He could get hot; he could go cold. He could get his own shot; he liked to take his own shot.

At 27, Gay is hardly “old” by NBA standards. But neither is he new. Now in his seventh NBA season – the Grizzlies made him the eighth overall pick out of Connecticut in 2006 – Gay’s track record is established. 

Gay made his return to Memphis Wednesday where his Raptors played at the Grizzlies for the first time since the trade.

Late last January, the Grizzlies’ new ownership/management team pulled the trigger on a three-team, six-player trade that sent the 6-8, 225-pound Gay to Toronto. The deal had obvious financial implications with Gay making $16.5 million last year and due $37 million over this season and next (he can opt out after this season, which is why his name is already in trade rumors again).

Weeks after last season’s trade in an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Gay referred to new Grizzlies controlling owner Robert J. Pera and team CEO Jason Levien as “rookie owners.” On Tuesday, Gay didn’t deny some initial feelings of bitterness. But when asked if there was any of that now, he said, “Not anymore. No. At first, it was (difficult). It’s just a business – whether they’re rookie owners or 10-year owners. I understand it now. I just try to do the best I can in Toronto.” 

Entering Wednesday’s contest, Gay is averaging 19.3 points and 7.4 rebounds through eight games this season. He also is shooting a career-low 35.6 percent from the floor, well off his career average of 44.8. From 3-point range, he is hitting 33.3 percent of his shots, just below his career mark of 34.3.

The Raptors got into Memphis Monday night and Gay went to the house he called home in Memphis.

“Slept in my bed,” he said. “First time in a while. Felt good to be back.”

He stays in touch with several Grizzlies, often communicating with point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol. Gay and his wife are expecting a baby and Gay said he congratulated forward Zach Randolph on his new son.

“We played together and basically lived together for six years,” Gay said of his old teammates. “It’s not like we’re gonna stop talking. There’s no bad blood between us or anything.”

 Lionel Hollins was still the Grizzlies’ coach when Gay was traded against Hollins’ wishes. Now, Dave Joerger – then a Grizz assistant – is the head coach and Hollins is out of work.

“We’ve been texting back and forth a couple of weeks now,” Gay said of Hollins. “He’s waiting for his next job. I’m always pulling for him. He’s one of the guys that made me the player I am today.

“I’m surprised he doesn’t have a job. I thought he would have picked a job up. That he’s not here? I’m not here, so no, I’m not surprised,” Gay said with a laugh.

Once you’re old enough to need ice on your knees the day after a long game, perhaps nothing that happens in the league is too surprising. Gay’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors with the Los Angeles Lakers, among others. If the Raptors don’t trade him, odds are good he will opt out of the final year of his contract.

Meantime, there is his Memphis homecoming. He seemed resigned to whatever the reaction would be. He didn’t gush with specific memories of times past – he did say he would like to thank Grizzlies fans for their support – but neither does he deny the place Memphis holds in his personal history.

“Memphis raised me. I came in when I was 19. Left when I was 26,” he said. “No matter how you play it, I was here to start most of my adult life.”