Rudy Gay eager to prove he can help Warriors win NBA title

Rudy Gay eager to prove he can help Warriors win NBA title originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – Rudy Gay, widely respected NBA veteran, is ultra-brief in his description of last season with the Utah Jazz.

“It sucked,” Gay told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday.

In that regard, Gay is trying to resuscitate his career with the Warriors. To put a finer point on it, he’s diving into the opportunity to prove he can be more than the team uncle he was last season with the rebuilding Jazz.

Gay, seeking his 18th NBA season, wants to get back on the court and, once again, be a basketball player.

Yet he knows nothing is guaranteed, not a roster spot, not a place in the rotation and not the one-year contract he signed last week.

“I’ve got to prove that I could be in the rotation,” Gay says. “And I’m cool with that. I got rid of my ego a long time ago. I’m 37 years old. I’m just trying to win a championship, so whatever coach needs.”

Gay’s know-how and size, 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, are what attracted the Warriors. A large wing early in his career, Gay lost some of his elite athleticism after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon in January 2017. He returned to action nine months later but has since been used mostly as a power forward.

Some of the old explosion remains evident, and that, along with Gay’s experience, likely will be crucial to earning a spot on the Golden State roster.

“Rudy’s been great,” coach Steve Kerr says. “He looks good. His body is feeling good. He’s just a pro. He’s been around the league for a long time, so he recognizes everything that’s happening on the floor. He’s obviously a very talented, very skilled player.

“It’s great to have him here in camp. We’ll see how it plays out over the next few weeks.”

Though Gay had other options, with some franchises offering an easier path to a roster spot, he was sold on Golden State’s combination of veterans, championship pedigree and immediate ambition.

At his age, joining a team built to win now after a year after playing sparingly on one at least a few years away from contending is an easy call.

“I’ve been a part of it too many times in my career,” Gay says of being a veteran on a rebuilding team. “I’m just trying . . . if I’m going to be here, I’m going to be competitive. Eighteen years in a long time to be in this business. I’ve got a lot of young guys by more than 10 years, age-wise, on this team and it was worse last year.

“But I do have my vets on this team, which is refreshing. The music’s better. It’s refreshing. And the Bay is a great place.”

Gay would be slotted at power forward and center with the Warriors, who separate roles less by position but by three designations: Guards, wings and “bigs.” His 3-point shot is inconsistent – 34.6 percent for his career, with five years above 37 percent and five below 32 – but that likely won’t be emphasized.

His role would be a lot like that of David West a few years ago. Read defenses, set screens, exploit pick-and-pop chances.

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Three bigs are slotted in the rotation: Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, Dario Sarić. That leaves Gay, 6-foot-9 rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis and 6-foot-8 Usman Garuba, who last week signed a two-way contract.

“I just want to be a good piece that can do a lot of good things for this team,” Gay says. “Things that can help them win. They fell short of that goal last year and I want to help them get back to the mountaintop.”

That Draymond will miss at least two preseason games could work in Gay’s favor. His time now and he knows it. If he succeeds in his quest, he’ll be introduced with the Warriors at Chase Center on opening night.

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