March 22, 2011
Because one of the better stories of the NBA season has been the continued sound play of the Memphis Grizzlies. The team is currently two games up on the Houston Rockets for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff bracket, competing well nearly nightly with a long list of reclamation projects, helmed by the inimitable Lionel Hollins.
And one of the better individual stories of the NBA season has been the play of Rudy Gay. The fifth-year forward had more or less flatlined in his first four seasons, and still somehow earned a five-year, $84 million contract that was widely panned. While Gay hasn't lived up to the strata his new deal places him in, he has had a fine all-around year in averaging just under 20 points per game and shooting 40 percent from long range.
But Gay separated that shoulder in mid-February, and while rest and rehab was the original prescription, a trip to famed Angel Of Out For a Long Time Before Eventual Successful Rehabilitation Dr. James Andrews sealed Gay's fate.
"I've never really been hurt. I've never had anything shut me down," Gay said. "There's really no brace or anything I can wear to make it better. I have to have the surgery."
Griz owner Michael Heisley, coach Lionel Hollins and Gay's agent, Jeff Austin, convinced the fifth-year player to follow Dr. Andrews' recommendation.
The Grizz still do stand a playoff chance, though.
They've made it five weeks without Rudy's presence in the starting lineup, and while Sam Young(notes) hasn't approximated Gay's production, his defensive work and ability to score in transition helps this sprightly batch compete. The Houston Rockets are playing better right now, and that team's weak schedule should leave the Grizzlies slightly envious, but time is running out, and Memphis is still two games up on the Rox.
As for Rudy? A doff of the cap for a nice bust-out year. See you in the fall.