Forward Rudy Gay has informed the Kings he still plans to opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer, according to league sources who would not speak on the record.
Gay, an 11-year veteran looking to return to a playoff team, would be owed $14,263,566 in the last year of a three-year contract and has until June 10 to officially opt out of his deal.
Gay, who played in 30 games this past season before rupturing his left Achilles’ tendon Jan. 18 against Indiana, informed the team he planned to opt out prior to the start of the season. The injury put those plans in question, but Gay is ahead of schedule in his recovery. He aims to be back on the court next month and ready for the start of next season.
Gay, 30, was averaging 18.7 points when he was injured, second on the Kings to DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins was traded a month after Gay’s injury.
The Kings now face the prospect of losing Gay and point guard Darren Collison, the team’s third-leading scorer on the season, as free agents this summer.
Gay was acquired in a trade with Toronto in December 2013, the first big move by former general manager Pete D’Alessandro who hoped pairing Gay with Cousins would give the Kings a formidable frontcourt tandem.
The following season Gay agreed to a three-year contract extension. But coach Michael Malone was soon fired, a move that upset the players and contributed to the culture of instability in the Kings’ front office that kept marquee players from looking at Sacramento as free agents.
At the conclusion of this past season, general manager Vlade Divac said Gay is the kind of player the Kings want in their post-Cousins rebuild.
“His personality, when we talk about who’s going to fit on this team, he’s exactly what we’re looking for,” Divac said.
But there’s a good chance the Kings are not what Gay is looking for, barring significant changes to the roster. The Kings are a much younger team than it was at the start of the 2016-17 season, and the front office is committed to developing its young core that includes Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere.
Playing a young roster means the Kings are in line to lose many games next season, and Gay would like to play for a playoff team. Gay has not reached the postseason since 2012 with Memphis, and that streak would likely continue next season if he were to remain in Sacramento.
Gay remains a capable scorer and could help a team looking for a wing scorer. He’s averaging 18.4 points for his career, including a career-high 21.1 points in 2014-15.