Baltimore’s best face off as Sacramento Kings host New York Knicks
Rudy Gay is part of that tradition as is Carmelo Anthony. Because of their Baltimore roots, Gay and Anthony have a relationship that predates their days as competitors in the NBA.
Gay first met Anthony when he was in high school. Anthony was a senior at Oak Hill Academy, the prestigious basketball powerhouse in Virginia, while Gay was a sophomore attending Eastern Technical High School in Baltimore County. He was still a relative unknown while Anthony was beginning to pick up steam before heading to Syracuse for his one and only season of college basketball.
“I mean, everybody in the city knew who he was,” Gay said of Anthony’s reputation in their hometown. “At that point, I was a nobody.”
As Gay recalls, there was no formal introduction between the two Baltimore natives. Instead, they were just casually introduced to each other when they faced off for the first time in a local pickup game.
“I actually had to guard him, so that was the introduction right there,” Gay said. “I was like three years younger than him. He was so much bigger than me and he did what he does all the time now.”
The age difference between the two doesn’t seem so significant now; Anthony is 29 while Gay is 27. However, Gay admits that Anthony was an inspiration to him while he was making a name for himself in the amateur hoops scene. Before Anthony became a seven-time NBA All-Star, he was another player out of Baltimore that Gay could relate to, trying to make his dreams a reality.
“When you’re from Baltimore, everyone knows who you are,” Gay said. “Everybody is…kind of looking for that next person (to make it), you know what I’m saying? We had a lot of guys from there. But in my era, first it was Juan Dixon, even before that, it was Sam Cassell, and you know Melo, then myself. We was always looking for that next person (to make it).”
They may have first met sometime 12 years ago, but Anthony plays the game no different than he did back then according to Gay. Anthony is more talented and more skilled, but he remains one of Gay’s toughest covers at the forward position. Gay, however, continues to relish the challenge.
In their last meeting, Gay didn’t back down from the opportunity to defend Anthony. With the game tied at 93 and six seconds left, everyone, including the Kings, knew where the ball would be going on the Knicks’ final possession.
Double or single coverage on Anthony? Kings head coach Michael Malone gave Gay the choice during the final timeout of regulation. The 27-year-old forward didn’t hesitate to let it be known that he wanted to take on Anthony one-on-one.
“Just try to make each one of them tough,” Gay said of his approach to defending his Baltimore counterpart. “That’s all I can do. He’s gonna make his baskets. He’s gonna try to get at least his average. He’s a scorer and they’re a team that features him. It keeps him getting shots and they need him to score from the wing, so I just want to make every shot that he gets a little tougher.”
For Gay, the Baltimore ties between he and Anthony add no extra incentive to tonight’s game. Instead, the veteran small forward just embraces the chance to test his abilities against one of the league’s best talents at his position.
Michael Malone on Rudy Gay and Carmelo Anthony
The Kings head coach offered this assessment of how the two veteran forwards stack up against each other in tonight’s matchup:
The great thing about Carmelo and Rudy is that they can both score in a variety of ways. You put them in pick and rolls as a handler, you put them in pick and rolls as a screener, you put them in an iso situation or you put them in the post. The one advantage that Carmelo has on Rudy is his strength, his body type. He’s just a little bit thicker and stronger than Rudy, but both very talented players. And Rudy will have his hands full trying to guard Carmelo and Carmelo, conversely, will have a hard time guarding Rudy because they’re both talented.