Memphis Owner: “We’re Not Trading Rudy Gay”

By: 05.17.11
Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay, Dime #25

There are two sides to this argument. On one end, there’s a crowd convinced that when 20-point scorer Rudy Gay comes back, he’s going to eat away at Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol‘s dinner plates. Trade him this summer, they say. Memphis is just fine without their former best player. They were in the playoffs.

Then, there’s the other side, led by people like John Hollinger and the Grizzlies’ owner, Mike Heisley, who disagree. Yes, lots of people in the NBA think it’s inevitable that Gay gets traded, both for financial reasons and because this Cinderella playoff run occurred with him strapped to the bench. But in a phone conversation with The Commercial-Appeal, Heisley told the paper’s Geoff Calkins to make it clear: Gay isn’t going anywhere: “Let me tell you something,” said Heisley. “No disrespect to Oklahoma City, but if we had had Rudy Gay, we would have won the bleepity-bleep series going away. I really believe that.”

Strong words, Mike. But hey, if you believe in your squad, why not? The entire city of Memphis is in love with these Grizzlies, and the future looks bright. It’ll come down to what it always does with small-market teams: money, and how long these guys want to hoop together in a place like Memphis.

Gay proved earlier this year that he can play on this team. He wasn’t the problem early in the season when the team started slowly. It took a while to figure out the rotation (like why Xavier Henry was getting minutes ahead of O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen?). During the time just before Gay got hurt, as Hollinger wrote, “…Memphis was 15-6 with a plus-94 scoring margin, and one of the losses came on a 50-foot shot by Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans. Included in that stretch were two of Memphis’s best wins of the season — a 19-point beatdown of the Lakers in Staples Center and a comeback, overtime win in Oklahoma City that yielded Allen’s now-legendary ‘all grit and grind’ postgame interview.” As we broke down earlier this month, there will be a dozen or so teams interested in Gay this summer (Philadelphia?). But, it’s looking doubtful that he goes anywhere.

And why would he? Check out the vitals on the 24-year-old: 19.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 47 percent shooting (40 percent from three). Before he got hurt, Gay had finally turned the corner with his defense and playmaking. He was no longer a ball-stopper on a bad team; he looked like a legitimate All-Star. I remember catching up with Gay at a Nike event in New York City last summer, and we talked a lot about Kevin Durant. As you may know, both are from the Baltimore/D.C. area and many look at them as similar players. Gay didn’t agree with the comparisons, saying he likes to handle the ball and make plays more often than KD. But still, the next step for Gay is doing what KD has done: learning to lead, and then winning in the playoffs. I used to doubt Rudy Gay. But the 54 games he played in this year changed my mind. He can become an All-Star.

As for the other question marks on the Grizzlies’ roster, Heisley told The Commercial-Appeal he’ll bring back Gasol as long as the big man wants to be in Memphis. However, he was a bit more unclear about Mayo and Shane Battier.

On Mayo:

The Grizzlies tried to deal Mayo to Indiana at the trade deadline so it’s natural to speculate that they might think about dealing him again.

Heisley wouldn’t rule out a trade, but he said he’d need to be convinced.

“I was the one guy who didn’t think we should trade O.J. before,” he said. “The reason we finally made the trade, in defense of Chris (Wallace), is that we had a lot more players at the guard position and not as many at the bigger positions. But do I want O.J. back? I want the whole team back. But if someone was going to tell me I could have LeBron James for Rudy Gay, I’d have to make that trade.”

On Battier:

Heisley would love to have Battier back but understands that Battier — an unrestricted free agent — may have other options and priorities.

“I love Shane,” said Heisley. “When we traded for Shane, it was with the intention of keeping him. But more than any person, Shane will make his decision on multiple things. He has the rest of his life to think about. Where does he want to live? I think, basically, that Shane’s next team is up to him.”

How good can this team be at full strength? In the future, this might be the only team in the West that could be in position to hunt down Oklahoma City.

Should Memphis keep Rudy Gay or trade him away?

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