Rudy Gay became a Toronto Raptor last week and you would be excused for thinking that he had been liberated from a Grizzly prison upon his departure from Memphis, if you listened to his comments this week on Toronto radio. That is right: the man formerly known as the highest paid man on the Grizz is now the highest paid Raptor -- but will he be the best performing Raptor?
There are those who will argue that despite being the team's leading scorer (17.2ppg) in Memphis, Gay was but the third or even fourth most effective player on the roster behind the likes of Zach Randolph (15.7ppg, 11.7rpg), Marc Gasol (13.5ppg, 7.6rpg, 3.5apg, 1.7bpg, 1.0spg) and Mike Conley (13.2ppg, 5.8apg, 2.3spg). Now in his seventh season, Gay has had his worst scoring and shooting (40.8%) performance since his rookie season. Whether this was a product of his own poor form, or the situation he found himself in on the Grizzlies roster, it became apparent that a change was needed.
'I was excited for a new start. I’ve known a lot of these guys here and I’ve been a fan of DeMar’s for a long time. I like the fact that he’s gotten better and better every year. So it was cool. It was a new start for me,' said Gay.
Gay's first three games in Toronto certainly look like those of a liberated player.
He has put up a hugely improved 24.7 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game and 2.7 steals per game, while shooting 2.1 percent better at 42.9%. Part of that improvement may come back to the family feel that Gay has for the Raptors -- particularly with his relationship with Kyle Lowry.
I wouldn’t even say it’s my boy, it’s like my brother. His son is my Godson. I’ve known him since we were 14, so it’s good to have somebody like [that], especially with this transition.
Whether that turns around Gay's season and that of the 17-32 Raptors will be interesting to see. With Toronto sitting fifth in the Atlantic Division, they are certainly not in the playoff hunt. However the core is there for a bright future.
Between Gay, Lowry, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan there is a five with an average age of 25.
How many pieces are the Raptors away from contending, according to Gay?
I say one — one piece. I think honestly we can get there with this team but I think we could really make noise if we have one more piece. It doesn’t take a lot, because everybody’s going to pick up their game and everybody’s gonna come prepared to try to win.