In June, the Kings wanted to sell Rudy Gay on their vision for the future. The team would be better. The rickety building that houses the team would be replaced by a state-of-the-art arena.
That pitch convinced Gay to exercise his player option for this season, even though most NBA observers believed there was no way he would pass on $19.3 million to test free agency.
The real test would be if the Kings could convince Gay to stay and not test free agency next July.
Sunday, league sources confirmed the Kings and Gay have agreed to a three-year, $40 million extension through the 2017-18 season.
The deal has a player option after two years that would allow Gay to become a free agent in July 2017, when many players will look to capitalize on the NBA’s increased TV revenue. That allows the small forward the chance to cash in one more time if he desires. The deal is also suitable financially for the Kings, who believed Gay could command at least $13 million annually as a free agent.
After Gay agreed to exercise his player option in June, talks on a new deal cooled over the summer while Gay focused on playing for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. But Gay always had been open to staying in Sacramento if he saw signs the team was improving.
Gay welcomed the franchise’s offseason moves, such as the signing of point guard Darren Collison. He forged a stronger relationship with center DeMarcus Cousins on Team USA, and both returned to Sacramento looking to do more to lead the Kings.
The Kings are off to a solid start (6-4) thanks in large part to Gay. He is averaging a team-leading 22.5 points and is second in rebounds (6.8) and assists (3.5).
Gay has been the kind of impact player the Kings felt was vital to their rebuilding plan. They acquired him from Toronto in a seven-player deal last December. The Raptors acquired Gay from Memphis in January 2013 and had soured on him. Gay had bulked up to play power forward, struggled shooting and was lambasted for inefficient play.
Gay, however, was an efficient, effective player upon his arrival in Sacramento. He averaged 20.1 points on 48.2 percent shooting in 55 games with the Kings last season. He shot 38.8 percent in 18 games with the Raptors.
The Kings now have their top three players signed to multiyear deals. Cousins is in the first year of a four-year, $62 million contract. Collison is in the first year of a three-year, $16 million deal.
Also, guard Ben McLemore is signed through 2015-16 with the team holding an option for the following season. Forward Carl Landry, a key reserve, is also under contract through 2016-17.