COMMENTARY | Since Charles Oakley, Muggy Bogues and Antonio Davis left the Toronto Raptors, the franchise has been missing a vocal leader on the court.
With the team undergoing a youth movement the past few seasons, the need for a player to step up during games has been needed yet sorely lacking.
Enter Rudy Gay.
During his time in Memphis, Gay wasn't needed to be a vocal player on the court. His lack-back personality allowed him to use his athletic talent to be the scoring spark the Grizzlies needed.
Plus, the Grizzlies had a loud coach in Lionel Hollins and players like Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen who were willing to be vocal during games.
This past summer, Gay realized the Raptors were lacking that kind of vocal guy on the court and decided to take on that role with the team this season.
This new-found vocal leadership was on display in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves when Gay barked out instructions to DeMar DeRozan to make a back cut, which resulted in a nasty dunk.
Then, a couple possessions later, Gay pulled Jonas Valanciunas aside during a break in play to show him what would have been more effective on his drive on the baseline.
Throw into the mix that Gay had spirited decisions with teammates during teammates, and it's become clear he has decided to fill the void with this team when it comes to being a vocal leader on the court.
This kind of vocal leadership might not seem like a big deal, but on a team that has been sorely needing it, it has been a welcome sight and addition.
It's something Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has noticed and appreciates.
"It would be huge," Casey told me when I asked him what it would mean to the team if Gay took on more of a vocal leadership role with the team this season. "Rudy (Gay) is a leader. I think usually it's more by example than vocally, but he's working at it. He's one of the leaders of our team."
Gay isn't known for being a vocal player on the court, but ever since he arrived in Toronto he has been vocal in the locker room and during practices. As soon as he arrived in Toronto, some of the younger players on the team like DeMar DeRozan instantly gravitated toward him and built a bond on and off the court. The fact he's now pulling players aside on the court on on the sidelines during breaks in play is just a natural progression for him.
But for the Raptors, it's exactly the kind of veteran leadership the team has been sorely lacking the past few seasons.
Ryan McNeill lives in Toronto and has been covering the Toronto Raptors with media passes since the 2007-08 season. You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
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