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Rudy Gay, Kings, and Jay Z; The game begins

Nate Washburn

Rudy Gay, Kings, and Jay Z; The game begins

When Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay ruptured his left Achilles tendon Wednesday, June 18 during the team’s loss to the Indiana Pacers at the Golden 1 Center, many fans immediately feared that this would mark the beginning of a new era of darkness in the Capital City.

Gay was already planning to opt out of the final season of his 3-yeardeal with the Kings that would have paid him nearly $14.3 million in hopes of getting a chance to play with a legitimate title contender – not to mention one last big payday before he ages out of the league. In essence, he wanted out of Sacramento as he felt the team was not on a path towards winning any time soon.

As a result, the Kings had a few options to work with entering the 2016-17 season with regards to Rudy’s status. 1) They could trade him and try to get some assets back before he walked as an unrestricted free-agent at the end of the year. 2) They could play out the season and let him walk, thus freeing up some $14 million in cap space going into next season. 3) They could play out the season and try to re-sign him to a new deal to stay with the team.

And now the game begins.

It was pretty clear that the team had decided on option 1 first and spent the later part of the summer and first half of the season trying to move the 10-year veteran. Rudy was still a solid player and could be a legit third offensive threat on a winning team averaging 18.4ppg, 6.3rpg, and 2.8apg. At 30-years-old he was actually above his career averages in every offensive category this season. He was definitely doing his part, individually, to make himself as marketable as possible.

But the team as a whole kept losing and Rudy was likely being viewed as a player who could put up solid numbers, but not necessarily help his team win. Any title contender looking for that final piece is definitely searching for guys who can help the team win, not just put up nice individual numbers.

Lots of rumors floated around regarding teams interested in Gay. Oklahoma City was in need of a strong wing and Rudy would have likely fit in nicely there. Not to mention the Thunder are viewed as an organization on a winning path by many. Other trade partners such as Houston, Orlando, and Indiana were also thrown about, but nothing really came of any of them.

It most likely came down to Kings’ General manager Vlade Divac not finding a deal for Rudy that would help make his team better. Sure, you would love to do right by a player who played his heart out for the city for many years, but this is a business and the GM’s job is to make the best decision for the team. With Gay being viewed as only a short-term rental with no guarantee of re-signing with the acquiring team, Sacramento probably wasn’t getting many great offers.

So there he sat. Rudy gay, a quality starting small forward who could shoot, rebound, pass, and even defend at times found himself in a situation where no one really wanted him right now.

With still more than a month before the NBA’s February 23 trading deadline, a deal could have been struck, but it also could have been a case where Sacramento had decided to take option #2 and just gain the salary cap relief this summer.

Then the season-ending injury hit and all bets were off.

The idea of trading Rudy this season was now dead. The idea that he would still opt out of the remaining $14 million owed to him next year was also in jeopardy. The Kings could end up with a $14 million dead roster spot going into a critical season where they need all the usable talent they can get their hands on.

Dark days ahead? Well, maybe not.

Back in December 2016, Rudy announced that he had signed with Rock Nation Sports to represent him moving forward in hopes of landing a nice final payday with a winner. Rock nation also represents the Kings’ Ty Lawson and Willie Cauley-Stein, not to mention Kevin Durrant of the Golden State Warriors.

Rock Nation, Jay Z’s venture founded in 2013, isn’t just going to sit back and let Rudy waste another year of his career in a place he doesn’t want to be. They are likely already in discussions with other teams to gage interest for their client in hopes of getting him a new deal and more security over the next 3-4 seasons - assuming the Achilles surgery and rehab goes well. And that’s where Rock nation will look to earn its money.

Players have come back from ruptured Achilles injuries before and landed large deals – even before they were fully healed. Wesley Mathews was the latest example in 2015. At age 28, he landed a four-year, $70 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks after suffering the injury on march 5, 2015. He was back on the court just eight months later.

Rudy already has a six-week head start on Wes in that case. It has been announced that he will undergo surgery on Monday, January 23 at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. A time table for his recovery will then be set, but such rehabs generally take around nine months depending on the severity of the injury and the dedication by the player during the rehab process.

For Gay, his dedication to return to the court has not waivered. Shortly after an MRI confirmed the team’s initial diagnosis, he tweeted out a thank you letter to everyone and announced his plans for a full recovery.

“…I will not take rehab lightly. I will work hard and consistently. And when I can get back on the court, I will prove just how hard I worked.”

Rudy and Rock nation have until June 10, 2017 to decide on whether to opt out of the final year of the deal with the kings or take the money and sit.

If he stays and takes the money, he risks coming back and being completely ineffective, thus hurting his chances of landing another contract in 2018. Or, he could come back and be very effective and then leave the Kings for a nice payday with another team. In either case, Sacramento loses.

If he decides to leave, it would likely only be if a deal has been promised by another team. In that case, Gay would find the long-term security he desires or a chance to finally play for a winner again. In this case, Sacramento can claim to make the best of an unfortunate situation. They would lose him for nothing, but not be burdened another year with a lame duck contract and gain cap flexibility.

And here is the silver lining. Rock nation is going to do right by their client and get Rudy either his last big payday, with a winning club, or ideally both. If they can pull this off, they will greatly help to build their young reputation amongst athletes in the sports world.

And, if they fail, everyone loses.

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