The Runner Sports

7 Burning Questions About Spurs’ Rudy Gay Acquisition

Last season was a rough one for Rudy Gay, and it begins and ends with the fact that he was playing for one of the top 5 most dysfunctional franchises in the league.

The Sacramento Kings had big plans for Gay last year. They were going to trot him out in a starting lineup that included nobody else of note besides DeMarcus Cousins. They wanted him to have a good season, because they knew his contract was expiring. The idea was to trot him out every night, let him get empty buckets, and be able to shop him around with inflated stats this summer.

But then in January, he ruptured his Achilles tendon, and their plan to show off his scoring numbers was caput. He blew his ankle out, and then the Kings blew the team up. By February, DeMarcus Cousins was in New Orleans doing a weird, fake Twin Towers impersonation thing with Anthony Davis. Gay watched from the sidelines as the Kings slipped deeper into lottery territory with another abysmal season. He wanted out. He didn’t even care about the money anymore… he wanted to click his heels three times and be somewhere else, preferably a place where no one wears purple and gray like it’s a good color combination. He’s a San Antonio Spur now, and it’s turned out to be essentially the only acquisition the Spurs have made this offseason. While the rest of league’s GMs scurry around throwing bags of money at players and nickel-and-diming whenever possible, RC Buford does not.

I have some questions about the move, and I’m sure you do too. Let’s get them all out in the open before the 24-hour sports news cycle resets, shall we?

Does this mean Jonathon Simmons’ eyes are wandering from the $9 million/year the Spurs are prepared to pay him?

The acquisition of Gay could mean one of two things in regards to Jonathon Simmons; either the Spurs think he will come back and they are going small and versatile with every roster spot available, or they think he is on his way out the door and need to fill out the gaps on the wing in preparation for his departure. The Spurs don’t seem ready to match any ridiculous salary offers other teams might approach Simmons with; it’s going to come down to whether or not he feels a strong enough connection with the San Antonio organization to leave the money on the table and help build something that has a puncher’s chance against the Bay City All-Stars. If he’s given any indication, he wants to make his money somewhere else, it seems like it would be an opportune time for a Rudy Gay deal to come through. Hopefully, there’s no binary equivalency here, but it’s hard not to draw that conclusion based on the optics.

Is Rudy Gay even healthy? 

All reports indicate he is 100% healed from his Achilles tendon injury from last year. Of course, when you’re looking for a new deal to get you as far away from Sacramento as possible, you’re probably not going to refer to yourself as ‘on the mend.’ That sort of injury isn’t easy to come back from, and we might not see as many Rudy Gay windmill dunks as when he was a Grizzly. But if he can come off the bench for the silver and black and score 15 points a night efficiently, consider the $17 million for two years a worthwhile investment.

Does this indicate Manu Ginobili might be signaling retirement?

If he does come back, expect him to take less money. Following in Duncan’s footsteps, there’s no way Ginobili causes the Spurs cap issues on purpose. Gay had been strictly talking to other well-run, almost-title-contender teams while he made his decision. The teams he had been talking to all have a star forward on the roster who would be ahead of him on the depth chart, meaning he’s probably ready to settle in as a backup scorer. The Spurs are famous for their ability to sign these kind of mid-level exception, veteran’s minimum type players willing to take a backseat by offering recruits potential success more satisfying than even the most beautiful day in Sacramento, CA. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything in terms of Ginobili; a Gay acquisition and a Manu retirement are not mutually exclusive, especially in a climate like San Antonio.

What about his defense? 

It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that the Spurs are inclined to signing guys who at least try on the defensive end. This always seemed to be part of the creed in San Antonio. But then came Old Man Pau Gasol. In his prime, Gay was a long, tall, athletic forward that could really give guys problems on the block. Don’t get me wrong, he still owns a +100 defensive rating, even on those horrendous Kings teams. In fact, his lowest season he was a 101. He can body up in the post, and close out on shooters. But he’s coming back from an injury that takes awhile to come back from, and in some cases, has effectively ended greater players’ careers. The Spurs didn’t make a splash this summer, but they got the biggest name they could at the smallest price tag possible. Defense or no defense, Rudy Gay on the cheap was worth a shot, for his effective field goal percentage at the very least.

Are the Spurs done this offseason?

Yes. They struck out with George Hill, Chris Paul, Ricky Rubio, and every other player they would have bent over backward to clear cap space for. They’ve taken care of Patty Mills, they’ve kneeled at the feet of Jonathon Simmons, and they’ve hugged it out with Pau Gasol for his discounted opt out. They’ve waved goodbye to Dewayne Dedmon and probably David Lee. They’ve dangled LaMarcus Aldridge, including tossing Danny Green in the trade talks. But now the abundant well of free agents has dried up, and they are still up against the luxury tax. They will acquire some roster fillers for cheap, and some of those gap guys will probably have better seasons than they should. It’s time to look forward to next offseason, when players like DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan start looking around for ways out of their own situations (more on that in a piece later this week).

What year is it again?

A healthy Rudy Gay signs with the Spurs. Dirk Nowitzki signs a two-year deal with Dallas, presumably chasing Wilt on the all-time scoring list (because everyone knows how narcissistic and concerned with dumb lists Dirk is, right?). Vince Carter signs a new contract extension. Dwight Howard switches teams and people are optimistic. It feels a bit like 2011. But it isn’t. For the record, it’s 2017. This isn’t the clutch Rudy Gay, this is post injury Rudy Gay. The Spurs know this, and presumably, so does Rudy Gay. For both parties, there is only one goal in mind here Which leads me to my final question of the acquisition…

Are the Spurs doing enough to be able to beat Golden State next year? 

Robert De Niro once said that sometimes the best thing you can do as an actor is ‘nothing.’ It’s easy to overact, flail about, scream your lines, etc., but when the footage comes back to the editing room, everything looks ridiculous and you just ruined the movie. Co-stars often marvel at his apparent lack of action during takes, but when the movie comes out, he’s always heralded as the master of the art. The Spurs had chemistry last year, something that can’t be bought or traded for or even developed in a single summer. Yeah, they swung and missed on some big names so far… but none of those guys were on this Spurs team when they were up by 22 against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Don’t mistake their stoicism for weakness; after all, stoicism is precisely how they’ve achieved 20 years of unprecedented, dynastic success as a franchise.

Justin Heller
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Justin Heller

NBA Spurs Lead Writer at The Runner Sports
NBA guy. Manu apologist. Tim Duncan clergyman. Van Exel admirer. Embiid fan club. Players Tribune articles can never be bad. The three most important letters in the NBA are g-i-f.
Grew up all over, ended up in San Antonio, where I live currently. Come enjoy the churros with me, Chuck.
Justin Heller
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