NBA Sunday: Gay Finds A Home with Kings?

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Gay Finds A Home with Kings?

Sometimes what seems like the most unlikely of pairings winds up working better than anyone could have imagined. The Sacramento Kings made an aggressive move midseason when they acquired Rudy Gay from the Toronto Raptors, and while the trade has not resulted in a ton of wins in the short-term, there are indications that Gay might be a big part of the Kings’ rebuilding plan going forward.

“I have to [keep a positive attitude], man,” Gay told Basketball Insiders. “No matter where I go, I have to be me and be the best me I can be. Honestly, I feel like I do that better here. The wins don’t really pan out like I like for them to, but I definitely feel comfortable here.”

“I’m not even sure of the exact record, but I know we’ve shown the ability to be a great competitor and beat a lot of the best teams in the NBA when those guys are all playing,” Kings head coach Mike Malone said of Gay, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas in a recent interview with Basketball Insiders. “When they play at a high level, three 20-point scorers, we become very hard to guard because you have a low-post force, a wing with the versatility and athleticism that Rudy has and a point guard in Isaiah who can score, get to the foul line and make plays for his teammates. Not that many teams have that three-headed attack. It’s great to have and hopefully we’ll be able to keep those together because with that core you add some pieces to that and you allow Ray [McCallum] and Ben [McLemore] to continue to mature and get better and I think we have a solid foundation. Those guys, offensively, are terrific and they’re getting better defensively.”

For Gay’s part, he can see a path that will lead to the Kings getting those elusive wins in the very near future.

“I see it. Obviously, we have talent and we have the coach to put it all together,” Gay said. “Of course, our young guys have to get older and grow up and be mature basketball players. Also, our older guys have to be more of an influence on those guys. I think when you are the young team everything counts – every game counts and every possession counts. Everything counts because we’re trying to get better.”

Being the new veteran in the locker room, Gay has been careful in terms of speaking up and offering guidance to his new teammates.

“I pick my spots,” Gay said. “It’s tough trying to come in and say and do too much being that you’ve already been through a training camp and been through half of a season with another team. These guys didn’t know me from Adam before I got here. At first, I’m just trying to come here and put my time in and go to work and be a professional.”

Even though he hasn’t been with the team long and has the ability to opt out of his current contract and hit free agency this summer, Gay does feel that there is a very real chance that he could be a part of something special that’s starting to take shape in Sacramento.

“It’s possible,” Gay said. “There are times when we play very well together. There are times you can tell we haven’t played together for a long time. As long as we limit those ones and we continue to try to get wins the sky is the limit.”

As for the decision ahead of him, Gay has been careful not to allow himself to become a distraction for the rest of the team.

“Everything is a possibility,” Gay said of his future. “For right now, I just owe it to my teammates to finish the season out to the best of my ability and not comment too much. We have a lot of young guys that probably haven’t been a part of situations like this so I don’t think it’d be fair for me to be steering them one way or the other.”

It remains to be seen, of course, what Gay decides to do this summer, but he is definitely a player in need of a new team to find success with, and the Kings are desperately in need of everything that Gay brings to the game.

Duke Rebounds Quickly

Whether or not you’re a fan of the Duke Blue Devils, you have to admit that they are one of the elite teams in college basketball. Sure, they busted everyone’s bracket with their premature elimination in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but during the tenure of head coach Mike Krzyzewski they have been a perennial threat to win the national championship. It is precisely that reputation that gains them something of an edge when it comes to recruiting, and this year will be no different. They already have commitments from four five-star recruits: center Jahlil Okafor, point guard Tyus Jones, small forward Justise Winslow and shooting guard Grayson Allen.

“I know whatever player he has there he always changes the system for that player,” said Okafor, who is widely regarded as the top player in the 2014 recruiting class. “I know you look at Jabari [Parker], how well he’s done. Coach K has put him in great positions to be successful. And when you look at when Kyrie Irving was there in the few games he did play, he was phenomenal, and that led to him doing well in the NBA also. I’m sure he’ll put me in a great position. I have complete trust in him, and I’m sure he’ll set me up perfectly to be successful.”

Okafor made the decision to commit to Duke with Jones, which gives the Blue Devils the top center and point guard in the 2014 recruiting class. Jones, like Okafor, is also sold on the Duke mystique and the team’s reputation for excellence.

“Playing for Duke is an extreme honor for myself and I’m really excited,” Jones said. “Definitely excited to be going with the class that we have put together and I think the Duke fan-base is excited, and the coaching staff. We’re just excited to go down there and try to help out as much as we can.”

Playing for Duke will be the realization of a dream for Okafor and Jones, who have long hoped to play together at the college level.

“It was kind of an easy decision for us,” Jones said. “We decided a few years back while we were playing USA that we should to try go to this school together and it just got more and more serious the more time went on. Me and Jahlil are great friends, that’s kind of where it started. So you have a great friendship and bond well on the court as well, so we just wanted to translate that to college.”

Rounding out Duke’s hot trio of freshmen will be Winslow, who is ranked as the fifth-best small forward in the 2014 class. Winslow can’t wait to get to work with what promises to be a loaded Blue Devils squad.

“Definitely, just starting off with Jahlil, very talented down in the low-post,” Winslow said. “He has the ability to stretch it a little bit to the midrange. Then you move over to Tyus, great facilitator, good leader and I think that’s one thing that Duke was missing this year, that vocal leader on the court. And then you got Grayson, his ability to shoot the three and then plus his athleticism, that’s something we’re going to really need next year. I think I can fill in, be that versatile guy, I can do a lot of things. I think the four of us can do great things next year. We’re hoping to have a special season, make it further than the team did this year, but we’re going to have high expectations for ourselves. We’re not going to really listen to what the fans say, what the critics say, but we’re just going to try to do our best. Hopefully that will be good enough to make it to a Final Four.”

As disappointing as this season was for Duke, next season promises to be one to remember, even for a team that is used to doing remarkable things. Four of the best names in this year’s recruiting class will all be together in one locker room, which should be more than enough to get the Blue Devils back to the Final Four, and perhaps even grab them another championship.

NBA Chat with Bill Ingram

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