Rudy Gay shows professionalism amidst Sacramento Kings rebuild

Rudy Gay looks down to the floor as the Kings take on the Warriors. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Rudy Gay has every right to feel sorry for himself.

Despite his undeniable talent, he’s been traded twice in the last year, both times by teams that have gone on to have major success following his departure. And currently, he’s spending the prime of his basketball life playing for a team that’s in the midst of rebuilding from the ground up as opposed to pushing for the postseason.

Again, Rudy Gay has every right to feel sorry for himself. But the 27-year-old veteran is not. Instead, he’s taking this opportunity with the Sacramento Kings for what it is and being the kind of pro many NBA locker rooms would be happy to have.

“Obviously, I have a tough decision ahead of me,” Gay said last week before the Kings took off for their three-game road trip that ended last night with a win in New Orleans. “For me right now, it’s just continuing to be a pro, continuing to do what I’ve been doing my whole career and just trying to get these younger guys better.”

The “tough decision” that Gay is referring to comes this summer when the veteran forward will have the option to either test the free agency market or play out the final year of an $80-million contract he signed back in 2010. What Gay decides to do is anyone’s guess at this point, maybe even his. For now, Gay is choosing to do what he’s paid $17.8 million to do this year and that’s play the game of basketball to the best of his abilities.

The Kings may not get much exposure outside of Sacramento, but it’s been no secret that the 27-year-old wing has played some of the best basketball of his career since arriving in December. In 50 games with the Kings, Gay is averaging better than 20 points, 5.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per contest. He’s also silenced the critics who questioned his efficiency by shooting better than 48.4 percent from the field as a member of the Kings.

But changing the narrative of his career is not something Gay is too concerned about as he wraps up his eighth season in the league. He’s instead taken it upon himself to share his experience, willingly taking on the role of mentor as the Kings close out the year. Gay has chosen to take on the responsibility of being a sounding board for some of his younger teammates that don’t have the years under their belts like he does.

“There’s a lot of times during the game that guys don’t exactly know what to do or what position to be in so I think I can help with that,” Gay said.

Growing with a team as inexperienced as the Kings has its ups and downs, especially for a veteran like Gay. However, the 27-year-old forward understands he’s in control of whether or not he accepts his circumstances.

“Am I enjoying it?” Gay asked rhetorically when asked if he’s enjoying the process of growing up with a young team. “At times it’s tough. I’m not going to say it’s all peaches and cream because at times it’s tough. But you have to put yourself in a different mindset. Of course, if I was on a vet team, I’d probably be preparing for the playoffs. But since I’m here, I have to make these guys better.”

His influence on some of his younger teammates has started to yield results. Ray McCallum, who’s started the last four games for the Kings in place of the injured Isaiah Thomas, has played his best basketball of the season as of late. Last night, McCallum posted his first career double-double, 22 points and 10 assists, in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

McCallum has spent plenty of time both on the bench and on the practice floor picking his veteran’s teammate’s brain this season.  Now that his number has been called, the knowledge Gay has passed along to him is finally starting to pay off.

Breakout performances from a rookie like McCallum are just some of the things Rudy Gay is taking solace in as the season comes to a close. Choosing to look at his situation with a glass half full rather than a glass half empty is just part of his nature. It’s also one of many reasons why the Kings may need to break the bank to retain the even-keeled veteran this summer.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.