When his left Achilles tendon gave way during Wednesday night’s game with the Indiana Pacers at Golden 1 Center, Forward Rudy Gay’s tenure with the Sacramento Kings, which began during the 2013-14 season, was effectively finished.
Gay, who came to the team with expectations that he would be the right complement for center DeMarcus Cousins, was in the final year of his contract. The fact that the Kings figured he would finish that deal then move on did not dissuade the team from holding onto Gay rather than trading him. He was considered vital to any hopes the Kings have (had?) of making the playoffs.
Gay’s departure ends a stretch characterized by high hopes, sometimes great performance, but consistent losing. From the time Gay came to the Kings in a trade with the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 9, 2013, the Kings’s win-loss record was 101-168. In those four seasons, Gay average 20.1, 21.1, 17.2 and 18.7 points per game.
Video shows the surprise and pain on Gay’s face when he suffered the injury while making a move to the basket. Reaction on social media showed concern and resignation.
Gay was drafted out Connecticut by the Houston Rockets in June 2006 but was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies the next month. He played six full seasons for Memphis before being traded to Toronto during the 2012-13 season. He was traded from the Raptors along with Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to the Kings for Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Greivis Vasquez on Dec. 9, 2013.
His contract runs through the 2017-18 season, but that is a player option, and Gay is expected to move on. He is being paid $13.3 million this season.
Gay was the Kings’ second-leading scorer this season, and throughout his career with the team he showed flashes of offensive brilliance. He scored a career-high 41 points in a January 2014 game against the New Orleans Pelicans, 40 the next October against the Portland Trailblazers. that 2014-15 season was statistically his best. When he added 5.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game to his career-best 21.1 ppg average.
Injuries were a part of his tenure with the Kings. He missed eight of the final nine games of the 2014-15 season with a concussion. This season, he missed six games with an injured right hip flexor, leading to an uncomfortable shifting of playing time when he returned.
Despite that, as The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones wrote after Gay’s season-ending injury:
The Kings viewed Gay as vital to their playoff hopes, as shown by their decision to not trade him even though he plans to opt out of his contract at the end of the season to become a free agent.
Plenty of questions remain, for Gay, the Kings and other NBA teams who might be in line to acquire him.
Most critically, Kings teammates must deal not only with the loss of a solid player, but also with the loss of a teammate with whom they have played for the better part of four seasons.