From Sam Amick's story this morning it appears that Gay picking up his $19.3M option for next year isn't a foregone conclusion:
The next four months will certainly matter, as Gay made it clear that – despite the widespread assumption that he would never pass up the chance to make $19.3 million next season – he has not made a decision on whether to become a free agent this summer. To be more specific, he chuckled at the notion that even the worst of experiences couldn't convince him to opt out of that sort of payday.
"Um, I don't know," he said with a smile. "Honestly, people out there can think what they want, but it's really not as much about the money as you'd think. You know, obviously, I've made a lot of money in my career. And with God's help, and with my knees and everything being healthy, hopefully I can make a lot more."
There have been recent examples of players leaving serious cash behind in exchange for more long-term security and a perceived chance to win more, the latest coming in July: Monta Ellis declined his $11 million player option with the Milwaukee Bucks and instead signed a three-year, $25 million deal with Dallas; Andre Iguodala declined his $15.9 million player option with the Denver Nuggets and signed a four-year, $48 million deal with the Golden State Warriors.
Iguodala, as it so happens, is a close friend of Gay's who he cited as an example of what he might become: a player who prioritized the desire to play for a contender above all else.
"(Iguodala) ended up getting into a great situation, where he possibly could be contending for a championship," Gay said. "That's more what it's about."
So, quite possibly if things don't work out in Sacramento, Gay could leave for
greener more competitive pastures. Gay has to play well enough that his value doesn't further erode, but that play can't contribute *too* much to improve the team this year [Sacramento won't be a contender even if Gay returns to peak form]. It's still in this team's best long-term interest to stay mired in the Bottom-5 this season for next year's draft. A return to his circa 2010-11 level of play would probably convince Gay to try to the open market--and it'd make his departure that more disheartening to the organization. And it sounds like if he plays out of his mind, he'd definitely go somewhere else next year.
Count me among those thinking that a Rudy Gay just good enough to walk wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, especially if he can get it together by the trade deadline.