Rudy Gay and the Sacramento Kings found each other at the perfect time.
Prior to trading for Gay, the Kings were in need of help on the wing, and in need of another starting-caliber player to put alongside Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins. Meanwhile, Gay was struggling to find his footing in Toronto, where he averaged 19.4 points on 38.8% shooting from the field through 18 games in the 2012-13 season. For the money he made at the time, it didn’t cut it.
The Raptors sold low on Gay, and traded him to the Kings for the expiring contracts of John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. Sacramento also received Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy. Gay was traded to Toronto in a similar salary dump not even a year prior to that, so it wasn’t like the Kings were getting a player that had much value around the league.
In hindsight, though, the trade was an absolute steal for the Kings.
In 55 appearances for the Kings in the 2012-13 season, Gay averaged 20.1 points per game on 48.8% shooting from the field, in additions to 5.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. In other words, he was everything but what Kings fans expected him to be.
Gay followed that season up with an equally impressive second season, where he averaged 21.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and a steal. The problem was that the Kings weren’t getting any better, and Gay wasn’t blameless in that.
For as talented as a scorer as Gay was, particularly in isolation, he’d often get too comfortable with the ball in his hands, which is just a nice way of saying he didn’t pass the ball. The revolving door of head coaches didn’t make things easy on Gay, either.
Still, at his best, Gay was the Kings’ second-best player next to DeMarcus Cousins, and for a brief moment, it seemed like they were going to lead the Kings back to the postseason.
Despite Gay’s trade request leading up to the 2016-17 season, he and Cousins were a big part of the reason the Kings were competitive in Dave Joerger’s first season as head coach. Through the first 30 games of the 2016-17 season, the Kings went 13-17.
Then, on Jan. 18, 2017, Rudy Gay suffered a full rupture of his left Achilles tendon, and the Kings’ already bleak playoff hopes vanished. It obviously wasn’t as heartbreaking as seeing Chris Webber go down in 2003, but it was still a devastating blow to a team that had just started to show potential.
Gay opted out of his contract with the Kings in 2017, which, in combination with his trade request from the summer before, caused him to fall out of favor with Kings fans. But make no mistake: Sacramento was lucky to have Gay for as long as they did, and it’s been a joy to watch him make a full recovery from his Achilles injury.