Sacramento Kings

Rudy Gay rediscovers comfort zone with Kings

Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay drives to the basket against Amit Simhon of Maccabi Haifa during their exhibition game at Golden 1 Center on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016.
Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay drives to the basket against Amit Simhon of Maccabi Haifa during their exhibition game at Golden 1 Center on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Rudy Gay hates playing power forward.

Well, that was the narrative for much of last season as his production tailed off following his most productive season in 2014-15.

Gay, however, says he’s not against minutes at power forward.

“The thing about it is you have to be able to play multiple positions, and I still want to see myself as a guy who can do that,” Gay said before the Kings played the Los Angeles Lakers in Thursday’s preseason game at T-Mobile Arena. “It’s just that at times at the four – the thing about it is people say I don’t like to play the four. I don’t mind playing the four; the four spot is fine.

“I need to be somewhere where the four is defined, where I can be at the four and not just playing a position. That’s how I’m best.”

Gay enters this season feeling he’s in position to be closer to his best.

The offense no longer be will run mainly by a point guard as coach Dave Joerger wants more ball movement. So instead of Gay waiting to be set up by Rajon Rondo, as he did last season, the ball is expected to move multiple times with plenty of movement away from the ball.

With that, Gay has a chance to be more like the player he was in 2014-15, when he averaged career highs of 21.1 points and 3.7 assists. He slipped to 17.2 and 1.7 , respectively, last season.

It helps to have Joerger, who was an assistant coach during Gay’s time in Memphis.

“We already have a relationship on a personal level, so it’s easy to talk to a guy,” Joerger said. “I know how he works, and he knows how I operate.”

Gay remains capable of scoring on his own in the halfcourt, but he likes the options in Joerger’s offense.

“With Coach, I had him in Memphis so he pretty much knows me,” Gay said. “He knows where I like the ball, so it makes it easier for me.”

Joerger does not plan to use Gay at power forward a lot.

Last season, Gay never looked comfortable at power forward in George Karl’s system.

On defense, Gay, 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, said he’s fine playing against power forwards.

“Defensively I can guard fours, especially nowadays,” Gay said. “It’s more about offense.”

Gay said he’s comfortable thus far under Joerger on offense. If the ball moves as expected, he’ll be featured more, and when the Kings play smaller lineups, there will be opportunities for Gay to play in the post.

“It’s pretty much we have our sets and, obviously, when it comes down to it, if we need a bucket, it’s either me or Cuz (DeMarcus Cousins),” Gay said. “We have a lot of offensive power; Ty (Lawson) is a great facilitator. We have a lot of weapons. But the way we play the most, with ball movement, I think that’s how you win nowadays. You just can’t hold onto the ball.”

Touching the ball more means more opportunities for Gay to set up his teammates, too.

His assist average last season tied for the second-lowest of his career (2008-09), surpassing only his 1.3 average as a rookie in 2006-07.

Gay has had at least three assists in each of the first four preseason games, including three in the first half Thursday against the Lakers.

“Like the year before (2014-15), we don’t have a really ball-dominant point guard, so I can be a facilitator,” Gay said. “Last year, I wasn’t able to (facilitate).”

Sounds as if no matter position Gay is playing, he’ll be a lot more like the player he was two seasons ago.

Night off – Joerger gave Cousins and Lawson the night off. Rookie Skal Labissiere started.

Darren Collison also returned to the starting lineup, replacing Lawson.

The rest of the starting lineup – Arron Afflalo, Kosta Koufos and Gay – remained the same.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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