Rudy Gay is committed to the Kings for the 2014-15 season after exercising his player option worth $19.3 million.
And while he says he likes the Kings’ direction thus far, he is no rush to think beyond next season.
After watching the Kings beat the Charlotte Hornets 72-65 in a summer league game at Cox Pavilion, Gay spoke to the media for the first time since he decided to remain with the Kings.
The Kings would like to sign Gay to a contract extension, and he has not dismissed that idea.
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“I don’t want to create a big fuss like it was before, but I’m taking my time,” Gay said. “I’m open to doing things, but I really want to see where the organization is going.”
Gay could have become a free agent and still returned to Sacramento. Opting out and agreeing to a long-term deal with the Kings or another team could have provided more security.
Barring an extension, Gay will be an unrestricted free agent after next season.
Gay averaged 20.1 points and 5.5 rebounds in 55 games with the Kings after arriving in a trade with Toronto. The Kings made Gay feel welcome after he had been traded for the second time in 2013.
“If I was going to opt out, I was definitely going to look at my options on different teams,” Gay said. “But with me opting in, I’m not saying no extension is going to happen. I’m just trying to see where we’re going as a team and how we plan on getting better.”
One change the Kings made was replacing Isaiah Thomas with Darren Collison at point guard. They also drafted guard Nik Stauskas and are exploring ways to add another frontcourt defender.
Gay said Collison “adds a different dynamic” than Thomas while noting replacing a player who averaged 20 points isn’t easy.
“I think (Collison) can help us in similar ways,” Gay said. “He’s a competitor, a great defender and he can score when he needs to. It takes time; we don’t know how we’re going to mesh. Hopefully we can figure out how to play together.
Even as Gay watches how the Kings plan to improve, it doesn’t mean he won’t commit before next summer.
“I’m open to doing (an extension) as soon as the season starts,” Gay said. “I’m open to doing it whenever, but right now, I just really want to focus on getting better as a player and seeing the vision of the team going forward.”
Coach Michael Malone understood last season would be a transition for Gay, but he expects the forward will be better this season.
“I’m looking for him to be more of a leader next year. I am looking for him to be a better defender next year,” Malone said. “And we’ve already talked about and he said it on his own: ‘Coach, last year I held the ball too much. I’ve got to get off the ball. I’ve got to make a play quicker.’ The fact that he’s committed to us and he saw enough good things to opt into that final year I think speaks for the whole organization.”
Malone is looking for ways to best use Gay, which could include using him not just at small forward. Gay could see time at power forward, a position the Kings still are not content with, and at shooting guard, as Gay is willing to do even more to help the team.
“I think that’s the luxury you have in a guy like Rudy Gay,” Malone said. “Two, three four, he can play a lot of different positions. He can post up, he can play pick-and-roll, he can isolate and he’s a guy that has a high basketball IQ. He’s going into the season knowing he has to be a willing playmaker.”