Rudy Gay’s no stranger to trade rumors. He’s been traded three times in his 10-year NBA career, with the first swap coming on the night he was drafted, and he’s heard his name bandied about in speculation that didn’t end in a deal on a number of other occasions … including pretty consistently for, oh, the last six or seven months.
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The latest round of rumors came a couple of weeks back courtesy of ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, who reported that the Sacramento Kings “are actively seeking to move Gay as well as big man Kosta Koufos and guard Ben McLemore” as they look to shuffle up their roster in pursuit of better results — like, say, a .500 record and outside shot at the West’s No. 8 seed — for what feels like the umpteenth year in a row. After working with young campers at his Youth Skills Academy, Gay sat down for an interview with Blake Ellington of Kings blog Sactown Royalty, and the veteran forward sure didn’t sound too pleased with the way Kings general manager Vlade Divac and his front office are handling things:
I mean, [the trade talk has] been pretty loud as of late, so it’s hard not to pay attention to it. I think it just goes to, I don’t know, I think there’s always ways to do things and in this situation I don’t think it’s going about the right way. No matter what your intentions to do with your players, I would think the first thing you want to do is make sure people are happy with what you are doing. That hasn’t been the case.
So you haven’t had much communication with the franchise as far as your future?
No, I haven’t. I’ve had communication, but not the kind of communication that I would say I like. […]
If you had your ideal communication situation, what would you like to hear from the franchise?
You don’t want to hear things on the internet, on Twitter. You would like to hear it from out of the horse’s mouth. Just be upfront with people, that’s all you have to do.
To some degree, you can understand Gay’s frustration. While such rumors, speculation and transactions are part of the job — as Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is fond of saying, “This is why you really get paid,” to deal with those unpleasant things — it can’t be very much fun at all to see your name continue to pop up in those sorts of headlines without getting what you feel is an honest appraisal of what’s real, what’s not, and where things stand.
That’s especially true for a player like Gay, who’s about to turn 30, who has seen his standing in the league dip over the years (who can forget Lionel Hollins’ immortal “champagne taste/beer budget” line?) after becoming something of a whipping boy of the analytics movement and watching as both the Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors improved after trading him away, who hasn’t played in the postseason in four years, and who — with one fully guaranteed year left on his contract, and a player option for the 2017-18 season — would like to find some semblance of “stability,” whether in Sacramento or somewhere else.
On the other hand, while communication is important, it’s Gay’s job to focus on what he can control — stuff like his training, his diet, his approach to vision correction — and to let Divac and company do the jobs that principal owner Vivek Ranadivé hired them to do. One of the first editors I worked for liked to use an old Southern saying whenever I wasn’t sure why certain choices were made: “Don’t worry about the mule going blind. Just load the wagon.” Maybe, if nothing else, Rudy will like the idea of a chain-smoking mule running the show.
Gay appears to be embracing that hands-off approach, though — like teammate DeMarcus Cousins — it doesn’t sound like he’s gotten much perspective on Sacramento’s decision-making as a result of that distance. More from Ellington:
Toward the end of the last couple of seasons you have made it clear you don’t think the franchise has a direction. I assume you still feel that way. What do you think the direction of the team is right now?
I have no idea. I suit up and give it my all. That’s all I can do in this situation, that’s all you can do. Go out there and play as much as you can. Obviously, we don’t have anything to really build on. We have a new coach [Dave Joerger, formerly of the Grizzlies]. I think that’s the only thing we can really build on. New coach and seeing how it plays out. […]
So how about next season? What do you think about Dave Joerger and if you are still here, what do you see the potential of the team being?
I don’t know. Honestly, I haven’t paid attention. I don’t even know who our new players are, to be honest with you. I’ve just been focused on trying to be healthy and trying to get in shape and get ready for the season, wherever that might be.
For the moment, it looks like it will be Sacramento. For one thing, with all due respect to Omri Casspi and the just-signed Matt Barnes, Gay’s probably the Kings’ best option at small forward. For another, it remains to be seen how many teams would be super interested in taking on $27.5 million in salary for a player who is, as Gay revealed to Ellington, coming off Achilles tendon surgery — “I had Achilles tendonitis, basically micro tears in my Achilles and for the past two seasons it’s been bothering me so I’ve been trying to play through it and I got to a point where I needed to have it fixed so I got it fixed” — and about to hit the wrong side of 30.
Whatever Divac decides to do with Gay, it seems like there might still be some communication issues to be ironed out inside the facilities set to open at 500 David J. Stern Walk. The Kings are a flawed team, but if they can get everyone on the same page and pulling in the same direction, there might be enough talent on hand to make some noise in the lower reaches of the Western playoff chase. If they can’t, though, we could be in store for yet another season where the Kings make more headlines for locker-room dysfunction than on-court success.
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