OAKLAND, Calif. – Whether it’s close friend Rajon Rondo, Jarrett Jack, or other basketball colleagues, Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay has been leaning on his circle of NBA friends to get him through recent trade speculation.
While Rondo, according to Gay, is giving sound advice, the Boston Celtics guard can’t help being a little selfish.
“It’s hard to talk to [Rondo] because he is always saying, ‘We need you over here. We need you over here,’ ” Gay said. “So it’s not easy talking to him. But he’s being a friend, just telling me about keeping everything together and he makes you feel like you are still valuable.”
Gay, who is averaging 17.8 points and 5.8 rebounds, is being paid $16.4 million this season. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski has previously reported that the Grizzlies have been shopping Gay to multiple teams, most notably the Phoenix Suns. By dealing Gay before the league’s Feb. 21 deadline, the small-market Grizzlies would rid themselves of the $17.8 million and $19.3 million owed to the seventh-year forward for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, which could ease luxury tax concerns, depending on what Memphis receives in return.
Grizzlies big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have also been mentioned in trade rumors, but Gay’s name has garnered the most attention. The Grizzlies have a new owner in Robert Pera and a front office led by new CEO Jason Levien, who both sat courtside during a 94-87 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. Grizzlies management has been calling teams to gauge interest in Gay, but no trade is imminent, a source told Yahoo! Sports.
Gay, 26, said he would like to stay in Memphis, but added that he would be happy wherever he plays.
“I’m more than just a basketball player and wherever I am, or will be, or wherever I go, they are going to realize I’m more than just a basketball player,” Gay said. “I can give just as much as I did here, if not more.”
Gay said the biggest strain has been how the rumors have affected his family.
“People don’t understand that we do have families, we do have personal situations we have to deal with while trying to be productive on the court,” Gay said. “Your family is calling saying, ‘What is going on? What is going on?’ I just tell them, ‘Don’t worry about it.’
“That’s the biggest thing. The more people talk about it, the more I think about it, because I don’t talk about it at all.”
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Jack, a valuable reserve guard for Golden State whose been traded four times in an eight-year career, has been key in helping Gay cope with the distractions.
“There are different emotions that play into it, but I don’t think it plagues him too much,” Jack said. “Basketball is always a safe haven for all of us. He’s going to be able to focus on the task at hand and be that player we’ve seen for seven years now.”
The Grizzlies (23-10) have the Western Conference’s fourth-best record and are 2½ games behind the San Antonio Spurs in the Southwest Division. Memphis has won four of its past five games and went undefeated on a three-game road trip that concluded Wednesday. If the team stays intact, Gay believes the Grizzlies will be title contenders.
“We can’t control [what trades happen], but if [the roster’s core remains] we have a chance to be special,” he said.