Rudy Gay is taking heat for the Memphis Grizzles' exit from the NBA playoffs, but is it warranted?
By THE SPORTS XCHANGEFS Tennessee
In the aftermath of the Grizzlies' first-round playoff elimination, some fans were blaming
Gay averaged 19 points in the playoffs, which was about his regular-season average. But what fans forgot was that this year was the first postseason experience of Gay's six-year pro career. He missed last year's playoffs after undergoing shoulder surgery for an injury sustained just before the All-Star break.
So while many of his teammates had experienced the glare of the playoff spotlight and the pressure and the intensity that come with it, Gay had not.
"You learn in the playoffs that you have to take care of the ball every possession and score almost every time," Gay said. "And you have to play great defense. Every time you lapse, it can come back and bite you. People really pick up their level of play in the playoffs, but you've got to sustain. I think I did OK."
Gay took a break for a couple of weeks but is back in his basketball mode. He is about a month away from reporting to Las Vegas for the U.S. Olympic training camp, where he hopes to make the team that will play in the Summer Games in London starting in late July.
"I was blessed this year not to have any injuries," Gay said. "So I can go into this summer strictly focusing on improving my game. I'm going to take advantage of every day. Last season, I rehabbed my shoulder and the lockout didn't help me much. The (playoff) series (vs. the Clippers) doesn't define how hard I worked last summer.
"Losing to the Clippers gives me extra ammunition to work harder this summer."
--It's a dead heat on what the Grizzlies' biggest need is -- a backup point guard or another outside shooter.
"Technically, though, we have the same needs as we did last year at this time. We still had the best winning percentage in franchise history, so we were able to get around it," general manager Chris Wallace said. "But at some point in time, we've got to address these two issues.
"We had some guys show promise at backup point guard at different points this past season but never really got the position under control. And the issue you have finding a great three-point shooter is a lot of guys you bring in as three-point shooting specialists have a hard time matching up on the defensive end of the floor because they are often physically challenged."
--Forward Marreese Speights, whom the Grizzlies acquired from the 76ers early in the season, had one of the best seasons of his still young NBA career. With Zach Randolph sidelined for 37 games with a knee injury, Speights was thrust into the starting lineup and played better than expected, especially on the defensive end.
Now, Speights is an unrestricted free agent, and he's hoping the Grizzlies' re-sign him.
"I love the town (Memphis), I love the people here and I love my teammates," Speights said. "As soon as I got here (from Philadelphia), coach (Lionel) Hollins and the rest of the coaches, and all of my teammates welcomed me. I came here with a new slate. I was able to show people I could do things (play defense and rebound) that they said I couldn't do.
"I think I did pretty good. When Zach went out, everybody thought we were going to be pretty bad. I just played as hard as I could play to help us win."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"The Grizzlies have always been a grit-and-grind, defensive-minded team. I just tried to do the things they did so I could fit in." -- F Marreese Speights