Gay has plenty of motivation
Memphis, Tenn. - Rudy Gay will remember being cut from the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team for the rest of his career.
The Memphis Grizzlies forward described the news he got in early July as tough to hear when U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski told Gay he wouldn't be playing on the team at the London Olympics.
"They can word it however they want. Being left off, being cut, whatever," Gay said. "I feel like that's one of the things I can keep in my mind to make me move on."
Memphis fans certainly understand the motivation because they have high expectations for Gay, who enters his seventh season. He's been with the Grizzlies the longest - since they traded Shane Battier for his draft rights in 2006 out of UConn. He was a member of the NBA's All-Rookie team that season and helped the United States win gold at the 2010 World Championships.
The Grizzlies signed him to a maximum deal in July 2010, and he partially dislocated his left shoulder in February 2011. He tried to recover, but had season-ending surgery in March. That kept him out of Memphis' amazing playoff run, where they knocked off top-seeded San Antonio and pushed Oklahoma City to seven games in the Western Conference semifinals.
Gay led the Grizzlies in the lockout-shortened season with an average of 19 points, and was their top scorer in a disappointing seven-game playoff loss to the Clippers. But in that series, Gay also averaged three turnovers per game and shot a dismal 21.1 percent from 3-point range.
That pushed him to spend the summer working to get better.
"I feel like I've gotten older and gotten smarter as a player. Watched a lot of tape to try to figure out what holes I have in my game and try to fix that," Gay said. "It's hard."
Gay also added some weight, reporting for training camp at 248 pounds. He says he's ready to play power forward if needed, though coach Lionel Hollins said the weight will drop off once they hit the court twice a day. But Gay said he also worked on trying to be consistent - whether knocking down shots or coming off pick and rolls.
"I think I can give so much more, whether that's defense or offense," Gay said. "I feel like I can give so much more and I will."
During the offseason, Gay's name was mentioned repeatedly as being up for trade. Teams called, but the Grizzlies were not interested. General manager Chris Wallace said Gay kept the Grizzlies afloat with key shots during his first playoff series with the Clippers. Trying to replace what he calls a "big-time offensive player" would be difficult.
"Also, we're in a window right now with this team," Wallace said. "There were some critics ... Rudy's been in the league six years and still is just in his mid-20s. I think he's got unlimited upside. We're very, very excited about what he's going to do. He came into the league so young, and I don't think he's finished growing as a player by any stretch."
Gay certainly heard all the speculation and added that to the pile for more motivation, whether working in the weight room, on the court or in pickup games.
Now the Grizzlies have Gay in training camp with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, who give Memphis the league's best scoring duo in the paint. Randolph said they will put things together and prove people wrong.
"People don't understand him and me haven't really been on the court as much together a lot through the injuries," Randolph said. "We've got to play good together. Me and Marc are probably the two best playing together big men in the league and Rudy, too. I don't understand. There's always going to be something."
The Grizzlies have built up their depth enough that Hollins just wants his players to play to their talent. With Gay, that means making plays and more.
"He has the ability to rebound," Hollins said. "He has the ability to defend and defend the best player on the court every night. That's what we need him to do to win. That's what I expect him to do."
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