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Rudy Gay takes issue with Grizzlies, embraces challenge with star-hungry Raptors

Marc J. Spears
Yahoo Sports

OAKLAND, Calif. – Rudy Gay says the Memphis Grizzlies' new ownership didn't give him a shot to prove he was worth a multi-million dollar investment before it traded him in a three-team deal to the Toronto Raptors in January.

"You have to give me a chance to see if I'm worth that," Gay told Yahoo! Sports.

Gay averaged at least 18 points in his previous five seasons with Memphis, but the new regime in the small market didn't believe the forward with no All-Star appearance was worth paying $53.7 million over three seasons. Memphis also had two stellar big men in All-Star forward Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol while playing a half-court offense that didn't utilize Gay's athleticism.

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Rudy Gay has hit two game-winning baskets since joining Toronto in February. (USA Today Sports)

After Robert Pera bought the Grizzlies last offseason, Gay's name often came up in trade conversations. Gay quietly had an intuition he would be dealt.

"With [new management], I don't think anybody's comfortable," Gay said. "They're rookie owners. They come in there and they want it their own way, and you can't blame them for that. But it's a player's league."

The struggling Raptors appear to believe in Gay. General manager Bryan Colangelo already views him as the face of the franchise, and a source said he will likely offer a contract extension in the offseason. Toronto is in need of star power since the departure of Chris Bosh and the demise of Andrea Bargnani, the former No. 1 draft pick. Attempts will be made to move Bargnani this summer for a proven scoring post player, sources said.

"I needed a change," Gay said of the trade. "I needed a new situation. A new task. I needed a new task with something I could grasp, something I could take over. I need to be challenged. I was challenged in Memphis, but it was a tug of war at times. Here I'm being challenged and they're seeing what I'm made of."

[Related: Bucks' JJ Redick happy to be playing relevant basketball again]

The Raptors have not been to the playoffs since 2008 and are a long shot this season. Toronto was 16-29 before the trade on Jan. 30. They are 7-8 since Gay played his first game as a Raptor on Feb. 1. Gay is averaging a team-high 20.9 points with two game-winning shots in 14 contests (back spasms sidelined him on March 2 vs. Milwaukee). The Grizzlies have moved on, too, with a 10-4 record without Gay and veteran newcomer Tayshaun Prince starting at small forward.

"We obviously needed to elevate the talent level of our team," Colangelo said. "We needed to find out who was available and who was going to fit the characteristics of a star quality player we were looking for. We had targeted Rudy as a dynamic player who would fit a number of things we would add to our team. Rudy was a guy who I thought would eventually be available."

While Toronto offers the challenge, respect and stardom he wanted, Gay would like to let the dust settle before thinking long-term.

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"Last time I left it up to my agent and it worked for me," Gay said. "I love the city. I think the team has a lot of potential. The organization is great. [Colangelo] is here and he is watching every step trying to make this team better."

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