As 2013 winds down, it wouldn’t be surprising if Rudy Gay sees it as a year to forget.
On Jan. 29, Gay, the starting small forward for the Memphis Grizzlies, was traded to the Toronto Raptors in a deal largely done to shed his hefty salary. With new management in Toronto, Gay was dealt for the second time in 2013.
This time, he’s with the Kings, part of a trade with forward Quincy Acy and center Aaron Gray for Chuck Hayes, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez.
It’s enough to shake a man’s confidence – well, not Gay’s confidence.
“No, I’m just trying to find a new home, that’s all,” said Gay, who is expected to make his debut with the Kings tonight against the Utah Jazz at Sleep Train Arena. “I work too hard to downgrade myself or think any different of myself. I’m just here to make this team better, that’s all. And that’s what they want me to do. That’s an easy job for me.”
Gay, 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, is the biggest acquisitionfor Kings first-year general manager Pete D’Alessandro because of his talent and contract ($17.9 million this season with a player option for $19.3 million next season).
The Kings have lacked top players during their stretch of seven losing seasons, with the greatest void at small forward .
Since trading Ron Artest after the 2007-08 season, the Kings have had a revolving door at small forward, something D’Alessandro hopes ends with the acquistion of Gay. Though Gay is shooting a career-low 38.8 pcercent, he is averaging 19.4 points this season, offensive production previous Kings coaches have begged for from the multiple draft picks and bargain-priced free agents the team has used at the position.
Assuming the players dealt to Toronto pass their physicals, Gay will add scoring and athleticism to the Kings’ lineup beginning tonight.
“You look at the man, you look at the body of work,” D’Alessandro said. “This is a very, very good player, and we’re really excited to have him here for that reason. This is part of the process. We’re not there; it’s not a quick a fix. We’re saying let’s bring in talent and let’s see where it takes us.”
Gay isn’t surprised he was traded again. New Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri is remaking the Raptors and had already jettisoned high-priced center Andrea Bargnani in the offseason to create more financial flexibility.
But Gay said he was thrown off by the timing.
“We were in L.A. (Sunday) getting ready for a game and all of a sudden (he was pulled from the lineup),” Gay said. “It was really all of a sudden.”
Gay is excited that Kings management is happy to have him.
“That’s part of it – you know they believe in me,” Gay said. “I’m here to just to prove them right.”
The Kings believe Gay, 27, can flourish playing alongside DeMarcus Cousins as he did in Memphis playing with big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
“He’s a beast,” Gay said of Cousins. “When you have somebody that plays like he does inside, I can do more of my job on the outside.”
Gay shot at least 45 percent from 2007-08 through the 2011-12 season with the Grizzlies and averaged at least 18.9 points each season.
D’Alessandro and coach Michael Malone are aware of criticisms about Gay’s shooting percentage, and some say he is the kind of ball-dominant player the team has been trying to get away from.
The Kings, however, are trying to transform a roster that needs an infusion of talent.
“Yes, this year has not been a good year for him, shooting 18 times a game, shooting 38 percent from the field,” Malone said. “But I think playing alongside a guy like DeMarcus will open up things. They didn’t have that kind of a post presence in Toronto. They had that in Memphis.”
As for the concerns about Gay dominating the ball?
“We don’t want it (the ball) to be just dribble, dribble, dribble, no ball movement, easy to guard and shoot,” Malone said. “Rudy’s going to buy in. He’s a high-character kid. We’re happy to have him and he’ll buy in.”
Gay is ready for a fresh start, too. He’s worn No. 22 as a pro but will wear No. 8 for the Kings. Isaiah Thomas wears No. 22, and there was no time to worry about trying to get his old number.
“I was the eighth pick (in the 2006 draft),” Gay said. “Born in August (the eighth month), it’s my eighth year. I had to pick 8. Plus, it’s a new beginning for me. We don’t have time for that (negotiating for No. 22). I have to move on. I want to move on.”