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If you read (and if you don’t, what’s wrong with you?), then you’ve probably seen the article that Jay Caspian Kang wrote about Memphis’s chances of making the NBA Finals this summer. In it, Kang illustrates the pros and cons of the Grizzlies’ case for being a legitimate contender this year based on what they’ve done so far. His conclusion: Even if Zach Randolph returns to previous form, Memphis will still only go as far as Rudy Gay is willing to take them.

Now, obviously, there is a lot more to it than just that — and I encourage you to read his whole post to see the various points he brings up — but that’s basically what it all boils down to. Should we expect more from Rudy Gay at this point?

Notice the wording in the conclusion above: the team will only go as far as Rudy Gay is WILLING to take them. Not able, but willing. I don’t think that any of us have serious doubts that #22 is one of the most talented and athletic players in the league today. He has all of the tools to be a superstar. Unfortunately, as Kang says, he seems quite content to do what he does…and that usually doesn’t include imposing his will on other teams.

Anyone who has seen any of the following clips knows that Rudy Gay has ice water in his veins:

Whatever that “it” factor is that results in a player having a killer instinct, that clutchness that not only makes them want to take the final shot in a game, but the confidence that allows them to make it, too — Rudy Gay has it. The question is…where is that motivation for the other 46 minutes in the game?

One of Rudy’s issues is that of perception. He doesn’t sprint or explode or take off; instead, he floats and glides. He is so incredibly smooth that he brings about remembrances of Julius Erving (that’s Dr. J to you) and George “The Iceman” Gervin. Everything he does looks so effortless and easy that as a spectator cannot believe that he’s playing at 100%. It reminds me of the story of how John Robinson (coach of the L.A. Rams) once got onto Eric Dickerson for not running hard enough in practice. Dickerson, known for his fluid style, took the abuse for awhile before finally getting tired of it and replying, “Coach, I AM running. If you don’t believe me, put somebody out here and see if they can catch me.”

Rudy suffers from the same misconception — it looks too easy, so he must not be trying hard enough. It doesn’t help that it is only when he hits those game-tying/winning buzzer beaters that you see any emotion on his face. I think that’s when the “real” Rudy comes out. Why he suppresses that throughout the game is a question only he can answer. Nobody ever whines about Tim Duncan being stoic throughout the game (except for the incredulous face he makes every single time a foul is called on him, of course) — but he’s got 4 rings, so I guess that gives you a fair amount of leeway with critics.

So what are your expectations for Rudy Gay? This is his 6th year in the league. Are we still anticipating him to make “the leap” and become one of the elite players in the NBA? Or is he simply what he is and what he always going to be? Is that enough, given his salary? Is that enough, given what this team needs to become a title contender? Those are the questions this team will have to answer over the next month as they look towards the postseason…and the offseason.

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4 Responses to Should We Expect More From Rudy?

  1. Chris FaulknerNo Gravatar says:

    I can’t judge Rudy until I see him play in the playoffs.

    Elite players are usually on teams that consistently make the playoffs. I guarantee any player you want to compare to Rudy has already been in the playoffs at least twice.

    Is he overpaid? Yes, well … sort of. For what Rudy is paid you would expect him to be at 28/12 a game … and scoring consistently over 4 quarters. But the Grizz signing Rudy to his huge contract was way more than just having a guy to lead the team and put up big numbers.

    Signing Rudy to his enormous deal FINALLY put Memphis on the map of getting young talent, developing it and then keeping it around (like the elite teams seem to do). It said “this team matters enough to take a necessary risk.” But most importantly, in my opinion, signing Rudy snowballed into Conley, Randolph, Gasol. It changed something about how the team operated … obviously we never got anywhere doing what we did before.

    Ironically, Rudy had nothing to do with our playoff success last year, but the reason we signed Rudy is posted above in the video clips. He can make those shots … and fairly often. If he disappears and can’t do it in the playoffs then I could be writing a completely different response in a matter of weeks. But if we don’t get to the playoffs I’m not entirely sure that’s Rudy’s fault. If I were to have a quick/gut reaction to the question – Should we expect more from Rudy? – I would say yes. But I’ve watched the games this season … Rudy is rarely the reason this team falters. Rudy usually plays a huge part in providing the momentum for us to actually stay in games.

    He’s getting paid a ton of money, yes .. absolutely. But he’s also coming off significant shoulder surgery, a lockout and a joke of a training camp.

    To answer the question truthfully I, myself, will need a couple of more months.

  2. DGNo Gravatar says:

    I, personally do feel like Rudy should be performing at a higher level. But not so much his scoring. First and foremost, his effort seems to always be mediocre. A guy of his size and athleticism should easily get 8+ rebounds per game. Not to mention his numbers in regards to steals and blocks. But also, it seems like Rudy wants to take those big, last second shots when there are Sportcenter top play possibilities, but how about the times when we are struggling and need someone to take the game over. It seems like he either disappears or tries to take fancy dribble move jumpers when it is time for someone to stop a drought or end an opponents run. Rudy should be able to get to the basket almost anytime he wants but seems content taking jumpers. Basically, I feel there are several guys on the team that almost meet their full potential out there…..Speights, TA, and Cunningham for example. What you get out of them is pretty much all you could ask for. However, at the end of the day, it seems like there are certain portions of Rudy’s game in which he doesn’t give it all for the whole game. That wouldn’t bother me so much except for the fact that the guy is soaking up $15 million in payroll. But like noted before, maybe in the playoffs he will bring his A game every second and truly meet his potential.

  3. Lee Eric SmithNo Gravatar says:

    I’m with Chris.

    NBA legends are established in the Playoffs. Part of the reason we love Zach so much is because of what he did in the Playoffs last year. Assuming Zach returns to form, I’m thinking this should be a Playoff coming out for both Rudy and Marc Gasol.

    Yet, I too would also like to see Rudy dominate a game emotionally. To get fired up in order to fire up his team. I’ve seen quote from DWade where he says that some of his more spectacular dunks come from his knowing that his team needed a jolt. There are times I wish Rudy would do that.

    Still, you seldom get the feeling that Rudy is one of those take over a game, unstoppable, “HE CAN’T GUARD ME!!!” kind of players. We’ve seen that from Zach, not yet from Rudy.

    Part of it, though, is that the Grizzlies are such a balanced team that the team usually doesn’t need Rudy (or anybody) to explode for 40 a night. I heard Pranica say last night that the Griz are one of only two teams to have ZERO players go for 30 points this season. And we’ve been winning that way.

    Eh. It will all come out in the Playoffs. Let’s get it on!!!

  4. theGrizzFanNo Gravatar says:

    With a guy like Tony Allen on your team, there are going to be a lot of times that a player looks like he isn’t going all out. Tony doesn’t just hustle, he does it recklessly. I think this adds to the perception of Rudy not going all out. A guy running could look like he’s standing still alongside of Tony. I think Rudy is doing well with the talent he possesses. It is my opinion that he could do a better job at positioning himself for rebounds, though.
    I always viewed elite players as no brainers for the H.O.F., so I don’t see Rudy in that group, nor getting there. Close, but no cigar.

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