Wednesday’s game against the Pacers was rough. With no fewer than six articles on Sactown Royalty since then highlighting just how deep into the darkest timeline we really are, I have a hard time adding to the pile. Everything that can be said, has been said and by writers far more interesting. As this is my preview (till Akis reads this), I’m just going to take a brief second to talk about Rudy Gay.
Rudy Gay for many years was my favorite player in the league. As someone who’s size in high school allowed me to float between power forward and shooting guard and whose jump shot allowed me to float towards the first and third spots on the bench, Rudy was the guy I always wanted to be: a silky smooth high flyer with high scoring outputs, with a bit of “who gives a damn about efficiency” on his name. Meanwhile, I’d take three jumpers and hit two, and coach would yank me for.. well, I still don’t know, but the point remains, Rudy was that guy for me.
By the time I was playing intramurals in college, my “defensive stopper off the bench” label was shed in favor of “guy who shoots too much”, and in the same way Rudy was always that borderline All-Star (but not), I saw myself as that guy who might be good enough to play with the best guys on the court (but not). Rudy stayed proud but humble, so I tried my best to do the same. By the time rumors mounted that the Kings were trying to acquire Rudy, I’d moved on from trying to shoot the chip off of my shoulder. Those rumors were a couple of seasons worth of wait, and even after his Toronto seasons were pretty much in line with my realization of the true flaws in his game, I still wanted him on the Kings, just to say he was. The day I saw Rudy was a King was a Top 5 day in my Kings fandom, and maybe the worst day for anyone looking to get rec’s for a “Does he play small forward?” joke in a week or so.
And now I’m here thinking about the Kings playing the Grizzlies, without Rudy Gay on either side of the court, and sure that already happened this season, but this time, its different. Rudy’s highs with this team were high. Top 5 level efficiency for a Small Forward high. Dunking on Serge Ibaka high. Screaming over the top of my idiot friends who couldn’t get over his Toronto days high. His lows were, well, low. Getting tricked into signing an extension, those nights where he was just off-off; the day I read he was planning to opt out was a lot like the day my first girlfriend told me that our relationship was over because “you.. I mean, IT.. it’s just boring”. Yeah, they both deserved better than what that 16 year old who picked up poop on a llama farm for money could give them, but if they just looked at all the good stuff that happened during our time together, maybe it would be worth sticking around a little bit longer. But then you think: no playoffs, a swap in ownership, four coaching changes, every year a boatload of new teammates, her parents hated that you couldn’t drive a stick. Maybe this wasn’t all on them.
I wish Rudy well in his recovery, and though the odds are stacked against him, I hope he can finish out his career in a way that a player of Rudy Gay’s stature should go out; not in “basketball hell”, not with a ruptured achilles, but with a deep playoff run or two (regardless of the team) and one more Wham-Jam on an overanxious shot blocker. Here’s to Rudy Gay, that bird whose feathers were too bright to be caged, who inspired a little pigeon like me to fly just a little bit higher.
When: Friday, January 20th, 5:00pm PST
Where: FedEx Forum, CSN-CA, KHTK Sports 1140 AM
For Your Consideration
Kings Focus: Tonight’s game features a Kings squad that has now lost eight of their last ten games and who will be without their top two small forwards for the foreseeable future. The Kings now find themselves with gaping wounds in the shooting guard and small forward position and are going to have to do a bit of a patch job on the fly. The Kings focus for tonight should be on finding one at all that can share minutes with Matt Barnes. The obvious candidate is Arron Afflalo, who at times this season played small forward in a small ball line-up that was sparingly used, something that I will have to assume Dave Joerger will have to re-explore now. The Grizzlies are who we’ve thought they were the last two times we’ve played them this season: a team that plays with lids on both of their baskets. They aren’t gonna score much, but you aren’t walking in and dropping 120 on them either. They have the worst field goal percentage in the league, shooting 46% from two and 34% from three. They’re also a team that gets extremely foul happy, and in fact, will foul more in a game than any other team in the league. I think however, the way of beating the Grizzlies tonight, is to stop one guy. It isn’t Marc Gasol, or Z-Bo. It’s the $152 million dollar man himself, Mike Conley. The difference between the Kings beating the Grizzlies the first time around, and getting trounced the second was Mike Conley just coming back from an injury vs. Mike Conley being healthy, or at least comfortable. That means that Darren Collison has to step up in a way unlike he has ever stepped up before. The Kings need a second scorer, a floor leader, anything that will cover the gap that Rudy Gay’s semi-permanent void places on the floor for the Kings. Get Mike Conley into foul trouble, get him out of his comfort zone, and win the game tonight. Allow him to operate the way he wants to and this game is over after the third quarter.
Prediction: The Kings are going to come out together and focused on Friday, the game will be emotional and testy and a back and forth affair with leads being swapped late into the game. DeMarcus Cousins will have a huge game, though probably fairly inefficient, but to make up for it, Matt Barnes is gonna explode for 13 points on good shooting, just to prove all the naysayers wrong. DeMarcus is going to win this one on a pair of free throws, and a Rudy chant will break out at some point in the FedEx Forum.
Kings: 98, Grizzlies: 96