(This is the fourth part of an ongoing series where we will grade the Memphis Grizzlies team and franchise for the 2011-2012 season. The first three parts can be found here: Lionel Hollins, Mike Conley Jr, Tony Allen.)
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Rudy Gay is quite the polarizing figure over here at BSB.
Alright, that may be an understatement.
I’ve argued with friends before that besides LeBron James, Gay is the most polarizing figure in the whole NBA.
Think about it, everyone seems to agree that Derrick Rose (pre-injury) and Kevin Durant are great players and seem to be nice guys off the floor. They’re simply two of the best four players in the game, no matter who’s making the list.
Kobe Bryant, once king of the polarizing heap, is what he is at this point, a volume scorer who can’t win games on his own anymore. He needs help from his teammates or the Lakers will struggle. He hates relinquishing any of his shots to get that done, however.
People hate LeBron James since The Decision, and it was a short-sighted idea that just left itself open to ridicule. Conceding all that, everyone should be able to agree that LeBron is the best player in the game by a large margin, but people let their personal feelings interfere with that.
With Gay, it seems to be the opposite. People still think that he’s going to lead the Grizzlies to the Finals, and as we saw in the 2012 playoffs, that’s unlikely to ever be the case.
Gay had the opportunity of a lifetime in being guarded by the following ragtag group of guys, each with their own unique set of handicaps in this particular series: Caron Butler (broken hand), Nick Young (6’4 maybe), Randy Foye (6’3 on a good day) and Chris Paul (listed at 6’0, but come on. There’s no way.)
Gay responded by posting the exact same numbers that he did in the regular season and for most of his career: just under 19 points a game on 44% shooting and a shade over 5 rebounds.
This past season was Gay’s sixth in the NBA and I can say with relative ease that he is never going to get considerably better than he is right now in his career. That’s not to say that he won’t notch an extra point or two one season on a few more shots, and he may decide to start rebounding at some point as well, but for the most part, you know what you’re getting from Gay each and every night.
That’s a good thing because people like to know what to expect, but it’s a bad thing because he’s capable of so much more.
In a way, he was really Kevin Durant before we knew about Kevin Durant, but he never really lived up to expectations at UConn and is still leaving Memphis fans wanting more in the NBA.
People see Gay’s potential and are blinded, but guys just don’t start having peak years after they turn 25. By the way, Gay turns 26 in August.
People seem to think that he’s this precarious young guy, but he’s closer to LeBron James and Luol Deng’s age than he is to Durant’s age. Think on that one for a second.
As for Gay’s 2012 season, it was the typical Rudy Gay experience. He assumed more of a role when Zach Randolph was lost for three months to his knee injury.
The team had every reason to throw in the towel, but Gay and Gasol keep them afloat and they moved from being on the outside of the playoff hunt to being safely in when Z-bo returned.
As frustrating as Gay’s playoff run was, it has to be mentioned that he played some of his best ball when the Grizzlies needed it most.
In a nationally televised game against Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks, Rudy played one of his most efficient games in recent memory in a game that the Grizzlies needed to win pretty badly.
Memphis was in the midst of a three game losing streak and the Knicks entered on a nice tear, but the Grizzlies jumped out early and never looked back.
Gay had 26 points on 11-16 shooting and 5 rebounds as he upstaged his more-accomplished rival in Carmelo Anthony.
This game as the start of a nice run for the Grizzlies as it was the first game of what would become a 7 game winning streak.
2011-2012 Final Grade: B
2011-2012 Final Playoff Grade: D.