If there’s any panic in Rudy Gay, it doesn’t show.
His poor shooting during the preseason was no reason for concern. Gay said that he was a veteran in his ninth training camp and he knew not to fret over exhibition games.
Then the Kings opened the season Wednesday with a dud of a showing on offense in losing to Golden State.
After the game, Gay wasn’t ready to tear down his teammates. After all, it was just one game. Take the positives from it and work on the negatives was Gay’s perspective.
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And Friday night against Portland, Gay calmly picked apart the Trail Blazers for 40 points to lead the Kings to a 103-94 victory at Sleep Train Arena.
“I was waiting for a game like this (from Gay),” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “After the game, I told the players I want to introduce them to their new teammate, Rudy Gay. Rudy was fantastic (Friday).”
Gay, whose career high is 41, also had eight rebounds in the win. He was coming off a 5-for-15 showing against the Warriors.
It was apparent in the first quarter Friday that Gay would be in a groove. He opened the game making his first five shots.
“Rudy at any given moment is one of those players that can explode for 30, 40 points on any given night,” said Kings guard Darren Collison. “His athleticism, his ability to get into the paint, his ability to shoot the ball really well, is what makes him really special.”
Malone said aside from his play on the court, Gay was important during timeouts, too.
“In the huddles, the positive leadership,” Malone said. “Stressing ball movement, all the things we’ve been talking about. It’s great when you start hearing it from players, holding each other accountable.”
Gay was a problem for the Blazers last season, too. He averaged 31 points, 7.5 rebounds and shot 51.2 percent in two games against Portland.
In Wednesday’s season opener, the Kings shot just 30.8 percent and managed only 77 points. They also had 27 turnovers, their most since the 2005-06 season.
On Friday, the Kings surpassed 77 points with 7:01 to play on a three-pointer by Gay that gave them an 80-77 lead.
Sacramento also did a much better job taking care of the ball, committing only 10 turnovers.
That’s not to say the Kings fixed all their offensive issues, as they shot just 42 percent and had only 14 assists.
But the Kings won’t nitpick over that after knocking off a team that won 54 games last season.
The Kings were poised to create separation in the third quarter, leading 69-58 with 4:18 to play. But they couldn’t maintain the momentum on offense and Portland closed the third on a 13-2 run to tie the game at 71.
The Kings recovered, outscoring the Blazers 32-23 in the fourth quarter.
DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points and nine rebounds. Collison had 17 points, eight rebound and eight assists. Omri Casspi added 10 points off the bench for Sacramento (1-1).
All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland (1-1) with 22 points. All-Star guard Damian Lillard finished with 20 points. Wesley Matthews had 16 points and Chris Kaman added 12 points and six rebounds off the bench.