HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When you produce at the level Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay has on a nightly basis over the course of the past five seasons, the idea that Gay could be poised for a breakout season in the sixth year of his ascent might strike some people as a little strange.
But that’s exactly what Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins is expecting from the mercurial talent as he enters his seventh season in the league; Gay started 43 games his rookie season but didn’t move into the starting lineup until his second season.
Since Gay plays for our adopted team here at the hideout, we’re a bit biased. We’ve been huge proponents of his for years, dating to the 2007-08 season when he averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and showed off the talent that led many to rank him as the No. 1 prospect heading into his final college season at UConn.
His talent was undeniable then. It was strictly a matter of whether or not he could be a consistent force. And he proved that in the following seasons, even if he was overshadowed a bit by Zach Randolph and now Marc Gasol in Memphis.
But apparently, the word on Rudy is spreading with the monster training camp Gay is working on (more from Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal):
Hollins is often asked by national media about his core players, and Rudy Gay’s development continues to be a big topic. Gay, who is entering his seventh NBA season, is having arguably his best training camp.
Before the Griz took on the Houston Rockets, Hollins sounded as if he’s bracing for a breakout campaign from his 6-8 starting small forward.
“He’s having an outstanding camp,” Hollins said. “It he continues to play like this he’s going to have one of those years where everybody says ‘Wow. This is what I thought he could be.’ ”
Hollins and teammates continue to be impressed by Gay’s improved playmaking though point guard Mike Conley is right with Gay in terms of consistency throughout camp.
There is already plenty of “Wow” factor in Gay’s game. Few players in the league are as consistently exciting as Gay in transition. And he’s a proven big-game performer, a guy who is willing and able to take and make shots to decide games … like he did against LeBron James and the Heat here.
But if he’s ready for a true breakout season, that has to include pushing for the All-Star berth that we felt he should have gotten consideration for last season.
Granted, on a team that will have both Randolph and Gasol as the first two options and Conley coming into his own as well, there will be a crowd at the front of the line.
Gay should be ready, though. He’s been ready for a while.