January 30, 2013 – mark it down as the day that the Grizzlies sent Gay away.
Mark it down as the day that Memphis thought with their wallets, and not their championship aspirations.
Mark it down as the day that they sealed their fate as a team with a serious deficiency on the perimeter.
And finally, despite the monetary ramifications, mark it down as the most costly day in recent memory for the franchise.
Let me caution my sentiment by first declaring that Rudy Gay is not that once in a decade talent that takes an organization to higher heights. He is not a LeBron. He is not a KD. He is not a Kobe. He is not a ‘Melo. He can not take a game over for stretches. He cannot dominate opponents with the consistency that we witness every night from the game’s top 8-10 players.
Now that I’ve cleared the air on what he’s not, let me state what he is.
Rudy Gay is everything that the rest of the Grizzlies roster is not.
Gay is a lean 6’8″ small forward. He’s blessed with the quickness a la Dwyane Wade, the shooting range of Durant, and the explosive ability of LeBron. Granted, I’ve never seen the swingman deliver on all three of those abilities in a single game – but we’ve seen him pull those tricks out of his closet and whip ‘em out on opponents…much to their dismay.
Lionel Hollins has run a relatively methodical team which plays at one of the slower paces in the league. Particularly with Mike Conley on the mend, the Grizzlies have been extremely stationary. With the exception of Conley and Gay, the team is lacking in a very important area when is comes to being a serious contender – they lack any offensive creativity on the perimeter.
Gay was the one guy on the roster with size, shooting, and the ability to put the ball on the deck – making him the toughest cover on Memphis’ roster. However, the Grizz were more focused on avoiding some luxury tax implications next year, and dropping some big money over the ensuing couple of years. They clearly done that…but at what expense?
Memphis currently has the 4th best record in the Western Conference, which probably won’t count for a whole lot more than a 1st round win for them. Having to tussle with OKC or SA in the following round would prove to be a tough matchup for this team. Now, many will point to Memphis’ shocking opening round playoff win over the Spurs two years ago – without an injured Gay – as evidence that the bottom line from this trade may not be as drastic to the team’s performance as it seems.
But you’ll get nothing other than a big fat disagreement from me.
There’s no logical way that a team that replaces Gay with Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye is going to be in a better place. Ed Davis will give the Grizzlies another strong force inside – but the skill that Gay gave Memphis will be irreplaceable. At least it will be from these guys…and the remaining players on the roster.
In the NBA, just like in life, there are time’s that you get what you pay for.
But as the Grizzlies face the future without their super-athletic swingman, they’ll find out that they’re about to start paying for what they don’t have.