Rudy Gay was a big part of the Memphis Grizzlies' limited success over the past six-plus seasons, so it may not be much of a surprise that he's been key to the Toronto Raptors' recent improvement.
Gay will try to lead the Raptors to their longest winning streak in nearly four years Wednesday night when he faces the surging Grizzlies for the first time since being traded away three weeks ago.
Gay was drafted eighth overall by Memphis (34-18) in 2006, and the forward was seen as a possible cornerstone for the franchise. He did his part, averaging at least 18.9 points over the past five seasons while helping the Grizzlies reach the playoffs in each of the last two.
That was a big reason why it was a surprise when they shipped Gay off to Toronto - last in the Atlantic Division - in a six-player, three-team trade that returned Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye from Detroit and fellow forward Ed Davis from the Raptors.
David and Daye are reserves, while Prince is averaging 9.4 points in seven games since the move.
Gay, meanwhile, has 21.1 points per game in eight games with the Raptors (22-32), winning five straight to match its season high set in December and six overall.
"We can hang out and stuff after the game and stuff like that, but we're all about business on the court," Gay said. "We're working on a streak right now. We're trying to win games. We don't have time for all the emotional stuff."
Gay and the Raptors returned to business Tuesday, emerging from the All-Star break to win 96-88 at Washington behind the star forward's 24 points, eight rebounds and three steals.
The Raptors are now seeking their first six-game winning streak since March 22-April 4, 2009. Having Gay on their side should be a big help since they've dropped seven of the last eight meetings with the Grizzlies, including three in a row at home.
Toronto fell 103-82 at Memphis on Nov. 28, and the Grizzlies - 5-3 since the trade - enter this meeting on a four-game winning streak.
They shook off some rust following the break to beat Detroit 105-91 on Tuesday. Memphis gave up 30 points in the opening quarter before allowing that many over the next two to take control of the game.
"We were a little rusty," swingman Tony Allen said after Memphis' first game in six days due to the break. "Once we got our composure we were able to do what we do best. We played great defense and pounded the ball inside."
It's been the Grizzlies' success offensively that has driven their winning streak, averaging 104.3 points on 52.2 percent from the floor - 41.8 from beyond the arc.
Mike Conley has been a big contributor, averaging 19.0 points on 55.6 percent from the field while going 6 for 11 from long range over the past three games. He hit that average against the Pistons while connecting on 8 of 11 field-goal attempts and sinking both 3s.
Prince will be seeking improvement after going 2 for 7 from the field to finish with four points in his first game in Detroit since the trade.
"I wish I would've played a little better," he said. "You always want to play well against your old team."
He hasn't played well in Toronto, averaging 9.4 points over the past five visits.