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News broke on Monday that the Grizzlies were entertaining trade offers for Rudy Gay from around the league, trying to gauge what they might get in return for their talented swingman. They’ve already been linked to Phoenix and Golden State, as well as Sacramento in regards to either Gay or possibly Zach Randolph.

Fans usually don’t like to hear that one of their starters is being shopped, much less that two of them could be. Z-Bo is an unquestioned fan favorite, a guy that has claimed Memphis as his secondary hometown, and the Bluff City has responded in kind to the once-troubled double-double machine.

Their reception to Rudy Gay has always been a little more reserved though. To begin with, in order to acquire him on draft night, the Grizzlies had to part with fan favorite (and future mayoral candidate), Shane Battier. That put a certain level of expectations and pressure on him at the outset. During the first few years of his NBA career, Gay didn’t see any team success at all, as the team floundered after making the postseason 3 straight years and then didn’t top 25 wins during his first 3 years in the league. His stats were good, but the team wasn’t going anywhere with him as the #1 option. He was supremely talented, but seemed to lack the drive that true superstars have — and the fans and media began calling him out on that, even as they waited for O.J. Mayo to become that guy.

We know how the Mayo scenario played out now. But what of Rudy Gay? He signed the max-level extension that was offered him (as anyone would have) but has never really improved upon his level of play. The argument can be made that with the growth of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, and the resurgence of Zach Randolph as a primary option, that Rudy’s stats haven’t changed because he’s not the top dog. I can buy that. Put him on the Wizards or Bobcats, and he’s probably scoring 25-28 points a night. However, it’s difficult to make a case for him having improved as a player.

Or is it? He was on his way to a career year in the 2010-11 season with new highs in FG%, 3PT%, FT%, STL, REB, and AST. His ball-handling, long an issue worthy of criticism, was still suspect, but he had become a better all-around player. Then he went down with a shoulder injury in February as the Grizzlies were making a push for the playoffs. He missed the rest of the season and that exciting postseason, which is when the talk began swirling around a new topic: “Are the Grizzlies better without Rudy Gay?”

I dismissed that talk at the time, and continue to do so, even as some people look to make him the scapegoat for all that is wrong whenever the team loses a game or sees a second half lead dissipate. Despite not being at the same level as Kevin Durant, LeBron James, or even the improved Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay is still a talented SF who does lots of things well on the basketball court. 17.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.5 spg — nothing to sneeze at, although is 3-point shooting hasn’t been the same since his injury.

However, the only number that his detractors want to bring up is $82 million – the amount of the 5-year contract he signed back in July 2010 after the Grizzlies chose to let him go to restricted free agency, rather than upping their offer from $50 million to $65 million (Rudy and his agent’s asking price) the summer before. And if they had made that deal, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now because the team probably wouldn’t be up against the luxury tax.

You see, that’s what all of this trade talk is about: money.

The Grizzlies want to shed $4 million in salary to avoid paying the luxury tax. It’s why Rudy Gay is likely to be traded before the start of next season. It’s why Zach Randolph is now popping up in trade rumors as the front office begins getting interest from around the league and tries to figure out how to get the most value while still getting back talent and cap space. It’s why Tony Allen, the Grindfather himself, might not be in Memphis next year as he becomes a free agent this summer.

It’s not about talent or potential or being a fan favorite or having a killer instinct. Fans talk about that kind of thing, but it isn’t likely to factor into the conversations that Robert Pera, Jason Levien, Chris Wallace, and John Hollinger are having about trade proposals. They are looking at cold, hard, contract figures. And then they look at how well the talent attached to those numbers will help the Grizzlies ascend to the next level. Based on that, they will either make a deal in the next month or will wait until the offseason to make a move.

Make no mistake about it — this is not a Pau Gasol-level salary dump this time around. This front office isn’t looking to blow it up and start over. They won’t trade Rudy and Zach unless it’s for a Superstar (note the capital “S”). No, they want to get better. Better talent, better balance, better cap numbers. But to do that, someone has to be moved. In all likelihood, that someone wears a Beale Street Blue #22 jersey right now. Because money talks — and the guy with the biggest contract is the loudest voice in the room as a result.

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25 Responses to Money Talks

  1. kasdNo Gravatar says:

    check out the 4 team trade I connected……

    http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=b6syyjh

    one can dream………….

  2. kosackNo Gravatar says:

    Good trade to complex for us to hope it could happen and david Lee is definitely not getting moved. But still getting barnes for Gay would be great.

  3. Steve DickinsonNo Gravatar says:

    One would like to think that Gay’s name is being mentioned primarily because his effect on team wins do not justify his contract. Hopefully other teams value Gay highly because he ‘looks’ like a great player.

    I’m a stats guy but I have been impressed with the moves that Chris Wallace has made for the Grizz over the years. Hopefully he maintains a voice alongside Hollinger in these discussions.

  4. fernandoNo Gravatar says:

    Look Atlanta, j johnson its even worse in defense than gay, he´s out, and the hawks move the ball like knicks, now Nets its horrible doing that(with d will). If only rudy shoot more in the paint(and pleases dunk the damm ball!!!!) and shoot ft like 80% perfect, but he is more like jamal crawford, a volume shooter.

    • Chip CrainNo Gravatar says:

      And the Hawks just lost to Minnesota making them 5-5 in their last 10 and losers of three straight.

      • fernandoNo Gravatar says:

        shure, but look the season, plus .500(i know, is the east) all the way, hard defense, Horford, smith and teague in the off, and a lot of money for spend, like us in december 10 games is nothing. Btw, what the heck happens in the east? teams in euroleague, even in the dleague plays better :S

  5. sam cooperNo Gravatar says:

    I know one of the motive behind is this darn salary cap, but it’s not like we will be sending and are willing to spend more money to get a super star on board…..by signing a guy who’s contract is less than Rudy’s, you are not making the team championship contender. With the way things are looking, I think Mgmt should give the core atleast the full season to fully compete to their core and if things don’t work out, they can always start from scratch next season. Bringing some new guys on board now and hoping for a championship this year is waste of time….may be this trader rumor will fuel Rudy’s performance for the next few games….I hope he stays back :(…..

  6. oinkyNo Gravatar says:

    these charlatans knew from day one they could step all over the great city and people of Memphis.

  7. JBL02No Gravatar says:

    Once Hollinger was hired, you knew Rudy was on his way out. It really comes does to money AND efficiency. Hollinger has always maintained that Rudy was a middle of the pack SF in terms of efficiency but paid like a top dog… It’s likely that we won’t get cap space and the same level of talent for Rudy. So, to me it comes down to one question: can this team remain at the same level (or actually improve) by substituting a less talented but more team oriented SF for Rudy? Personally, I think the playoff run with Shane playing for Rudy proves that there is some validity to this line of thinking… Concerning Zbo, there would be a mass exodus of Grizz fans if he was traded, and we’d probably have a poster give away that next time he came to town… Tony? Well, he’s a blessing and a curse.

  8. chriskf1No Gravatar says:

    Heisley’s decision to NOT sign the $65M contract a year early and then proceed to tell EVERYONE that the Griz were gonna match any offer for Gay, and to THEN sign Rudy to a max contract before he ever even received an offer from another team ranks behind — I think — only the Thabeet infatuation as the most confounding decision of his ownership tenure.

    If this is really all about money (and I agree with Red that it is) we’re not even having this conversation if that $65M contract gets signed. And if its really about “fit” and “competing for championships” (as the un-named sources are suggesting) then Rudy Gay’s talent, at ~$4M per year less, with one fewer year left on the contract, would be fetching ALL KINDS of attractive offers from all over the league.

    Talk about reaping what you sow…

    • neo-realistNo Gravatar says:

      It is really unfortunate how most fans don’t realize how much of this Rudy situation is Heisley’s fault. The new ownership will get killed by almost any trade even if it ultimately benefits the Grizzlies.

    • presidentjoeNo Gravatar says:

      Agreed. Heisley’s infatuation with Thabeet was bizarre to say the least and the Rudy’s contract negotiation reminded me of Kramer and Jackie Chiles negotiating over Chinese balm.

  9. KyleNo Gravatar says:

    People bring up the playoff run without Rudy all the time but fail to remember that the run we had with Rudy, zbo was still hurt and conely was sick and playing 46 minutes a game… Can’t put that playoff loss in the first round on the fact that Rudy was back… In fact what you can do is equate the fact that the grizzlies had their highest winning percentage with Rudy playing not with Rudy out, and now this year they are looking like like they can have an even better season… And now management wants to ship him out in the middle of the season… It makes no sense… Don’t fix what ain’t broke

  10. kasdNo Gravatar says:

    Let me just say I’m not proposing this move because he is a former Tiger….but I think a trade with Sacramento may be the best move for the Grizz as long as they can get Tyreke Evans. No other trade scenario that is being talked about can bring in a potential all-star while still shedding a ton of money. Tyreke when healthy can put up 20ppg/5apg/5rpg…..he can create his own shot, he is 6’6”, can break down the d and get into the paint, still only 22 so not in his prime yet…. and even if we decide to resign him he will be waaaay cheaper than Rudy (maybe in the range of 40-50 mil for 5 years)….not to mention that they (Kings) have the best working combinations for a trade….(Evans-Garcia-Salmons, Evans-Garcia-Brooks, Evans-Garcia-Robinson, Evans-Garcia-Thorton…numbers wise all these trades work)…since Tyreke is a legit combo guard we can then package Bayless-Arthur….or Bayless-Mo to maybe bring in a JJ Reddick for much needed extra shooting…….and last but not least he is a former tiger so there is still a lot of fans for tyreke in this city….which doesn’t hurt either……
    thoughts?

    • neo-realistNo Gravatar says:

      Nope, Reke is an inefficient scorer who can’t hit outside shots. Our spacing issues would remain and the opposing team can keep the Grizzlies’ offense would remain stagnant by packing the paint. Keep in mind that Rudy could easily average 25-28pts/game on a crappy team like the Kings. The Grizz success as a team depends on the offense (and defense, for that matter) functioning efficiently.

  11. KyleNo Gravatar says:

    Maybe if we did this in the off season, but if we would mess with this much of the team during the season that would just have huge issues with being cohesive and I don’t want to sneak into the playoffs I want everyone to know who they should be scared of come playoff time

  12. TJHNo Gravatar says:

    If they are going to do it they need to do it soon for a couple of reasons. If we do bring in some new players they will need time to gel with the team and most importantly I’m worried about the disruption to our chemistry with all the distractions.

  13. kasdNo Gravatar says:

    this is why Rudy’s salary is a problem……

    http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=ax22kzv

    ….this shouldn’t happen……………..

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