Rudy Gay, the overpaid and underperforming small forward, is on his way to Toronto in the latest and most dramatic move in the Memphis Grizzlies’ money-motivated makeover.
The Grizzlies agreed to trade their star swingman to the Raptors on Wednesday, parting with the leading scorer on a team that has aspirations of making a run in the powerful Western Conference.
The Raptors gave up point guard Jose Calderon and forward Ed Davis in the deal that also included Grizzlies backup center Hamed Haddadi, and Memphis then shipped Calderon to Detroit for Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince. Memphis general manager Chris Wallace thanked both Gay and Haddaddi for their time with the Grizzlies.
Gay, averaging 17.2 points and 5.9 rebounds, signed a five-year, $82 million maximum contract in July 2010 with Memphis. The 6-foot-8 small forward is due $16.5 million this season with $37 million more over the next two years. That’s a big number for new owner Robert Pera, who took over the franchise last November and has quickly started addressing the team’s salary situation.
Just over a week ago, the Grizzlies sent valuable reserve Marreese Speights and two other players to Cleveland in a move that cleared $6.4 million in salary and avoided a $4 million luxury tax hit this season. Team officials said that move put the Grizzlies in position not to have to make a move this season.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins had been lobbying to keep his five starters together the rest of this season, but he apparently lost that fight. It’s a significant move for a team that was fourth in the Western Conference and three games behind the third-place Clippers.
”Wow,” Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley tweeted.
Trading away Gay also eases a luxury tax hit due next season, while concentrating the team around center Marc Gasol and All-Star forward Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies had their best playoff run in 2011 when they knocked off then-No. 1 seed San Antonio before losing to Oklahoma City in seven games in the Western semifinals – all with Gay on the bench after needing season-ending shoulder surgery.
”Wow that was 1 crazy trade today,” Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins tweeted. ”Are you serious Rudy Gay is right there under KD, Lebron, Kobe, and Melo. (hashtag)badtrade.”
They do run the risk of upsetting the chemistry on a tight-knit group, even if there were some questions of how Gay’s scoring fit in with the ball-dominant frontcourt of Gasol and Randolph.
But there may be more deals like this one coming in the new NBA economy.
The collective bargaining agreement negotiated after last year’s lockout makes the penalties for exceeding the salary cap far more punitive, and the system begins in earnest next season. Playing in a smaller market, the Grizzlies don’t have the extra revenue from lavish television contracts like teams in Los Angeles or New York, which makes it that much more difficult to go over the cap. But even teams such as the Lakers and Bulls will likely have to be more responsible with their spending under the new deal, where repeat offenders are taxed at rates that multiply with each consecutive year they go over the cap.
The first domino fell before the season, when Oklahoma City sent James Harden to Houston instead of signing him to a big-money extension, and more are sure to follow.
All told, the Grizzlies shaved nearly $40 million over the next three years after the two trades.
They’ll get a hard-nosed defender in return in Prince, the 32-year-old forward who was drafted by the Pistons in the first round in 2002. He is averaging 11.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game this season.
Story from The Associated Press.