Sources: Rudy Gay informs Kings he'll opt out and likely not return

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4136/" data-ylk="slk:Rudy Gay">Rudy Gay</a> averaged 17.2 points last season. (Getty Images)
Rudy Gay averaged 17.2 points last season. (Getty Images)

Forward Rudy Gay has informed Sacramento Kings management that he plans to use his 2017 player option to become an unrestricted free agent and considers himself unlikely to negotiate a new deal to return to the franchise, league sources told The Vertical.

Gay’s pledge to the Kings’ ownership and front office that he’s strongly leaning against re-signing with Sacramento is a declaration that could increase pressure on the organization to trade Gay sooner rather than later.

So far, Sacramento has shown no inclination to move Gay without a substantial package in return, league sources told The Vertical. Several teams have engaged the Kings in trade talks, but teams say those conversations have yet to find traction. Some teams have been unclear with what exactly Sacramento wants in return, and others say the asking price is too unreasonable.

Nevertheless, Sacramento hasn’t ruled out trading Gay, but the team wants to compete for the playoffs, and team officials believe there are few, if any, deals available that could offer them short-term value on Gay, sources said.

As a player who could become a one-year rental, teams seem unwilling to give up significant packages of players and draft picks for Gay.

Gay, 30, holds a $14.3 million player option for the 2017-18 season. He’ll make $13.3 million this season.

The deeper into the season the Kings wait to move Gay, the greater the risk of losing out on the best possible return for him. Teams with the ability to create salary cap space will likely become reluctant to trade assets in a deal for Gay when there’s an option of simply waiting until free agency to sign him. What’s more, teams unsure of whether they can re-sign Gay may consider a deal near the February trade deadline as too limited of a window to have Gay.

Gay’s revelation to the Kings appears to illustrate his unwillingness to leverage the organization to inflate competing offers against Sacramento in free agency, a play that has become a popular negotiating tool for agents the past two summers. Gay is on record now offering ample warning of his future intentions.

A trade offers Gay the chance to negotiate a new deal using his Bird rights in 2017. Gay is likely to command a sizable annual raise over the $14.3 million owed to him on his player option.

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is determined to hold on to Gay, whom he considers a vital talent with All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins as the Kings move into a new arena this season. Ranadive has told associates that he believes he can change Gay’s mind this year and persuade him to stay, league sources said.

Gay’s lack of faith in ownership’s ability to create a sustainable, winning environment has strongly influenced his decision-making process, league sources told The Vertical.

Ranadive takes an active role in the Kings’ player personnel decisions – along with general manager Vlade Divac and assistant GM Ken Catanella.

Gay averaged 17.1 points and 6.5 rebounds in the Kings’ dismal 2015-16 season. The Kings have been a model of dysfunction and inconsistency under Ranadive’s ownership, cycling through front-office executives, coaches and players. Sacramento traded for Gay in 2013, and signed him to a three-year, $40 million contract extension – with the player option for 2017-18.

Gay had been encouraged by the appearance of stability under former GM Pete D’Alessandro and coach Michael Malone, but that confidence in the franchise waned with the turnover that ensued.

Gay has averaged 18.4 points in 10 NBA seasons, including stays with Memphis, Toronto and Sacramento.

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