Why didnít the Memphis Grizzlies wait until after the season to trade Rudy Gay? Thatís one of the biggest questions being asked after the Grizzlies decided to trade Gay to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday evening. They were already out of luxury tax territory after trading Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby to the Cleveland Cavaliers so why not wait and give their core group one more postseason to try to contend in the Western Conference?
While thatís a fair question, the answer is simple: Gay had grown unhappy with the situation in Memphis and it was time for both parties to move on.
Grizzlies brass had met with Gay last weekend and the small forward made it clear that he would welcome a trade.
Gay was also tired of hiding his frustration. While players like Mike Conley made it clear that they didnít want management to make a trade and would be upset to see the team broken up, Gay didnít seem like he cared what happened before the deadline. If the Grizzlies traded him, thatíd be fine with him. Last week prior to the Grizzliesí game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Gay was asked if he thought the front office would keep the teamís core together. He used this opportunity to voice his frustration and take a shot at management.
ďIt really doesnít matter what they think about us,Ē Gay said of Memphisí front office last week. ďItís all about whatís in the locker room and what we think we can do. It really doesnít matter what they think.Ē
Gay was sick of the trade rumors. He was tired of seeing his name surface in report after report.
For quite awhile, Gay had told people in his inner circle that he would welcome a trade from Memphis. Last offseason, he reached out to several players on teams that were pursuing him to discuss the possibility of playing together. Gay was never too fond of Memphis. He seriously considered leaving when he became a free agent in 2010, but he couldnít turn down a maximum extension. Gay signed for the money, not because he was attached or in love with Memphis.
Also, the Grizzlies were concerned that if they waited until the offseason to trade Gay, he would be able to hold the team hostage since he has a player option for the 2014-15 season. If Gay decided he was going to opt out of the final $19,317,326 of his contract to sign a new long-term deal, he would have some control over where he landed since he could scare teams off by refusing to make a long-term commitment. The Grizzlies didnít want this situation to mirror what the Denver Nuggets had to go through when they traded Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was in the final year of his contract and he refused to commit long-term to any team other than the New York Knicks, which left Denver with limited options.
Another aspect that has been overlooked is Gayís shaky relationship with Zach Randolph. Behind the scenes, Gay and Randolph had butted heads for quite awhile. While Gay and Randolph tolerated each other, they werenít close and had several spats over the years.
There were a lot of things happening behind the scenes that forced the Grizzliesí hand. Gay was already upset with the trade rumors and delaying the inevitable would have made things worse, especially considering their options couldíve been severely limited if Gay played his cards right. Not to mention, Gay and Randolph had butted heads, so itís not like the Grizzlies broke up a perfect team that was guaranteed to make a deep postseason run. This was a dysfunctional situation.
Now, the Grizzlies not only shed some salary, but they also acquired Tayshaun Prince, who is a good fit in Memphis, as well as a very promising young player in Ed Davis.
This was the right time to trade Gay, even if it seemed questionable from the outside looking in.