One by one, they faced the multitudes of television cameras and microphones to herald the arrival of the new offensive catalyst while, at the same time, lament the loss of a couple of dearly departed teammates.
And to a man the members of the Toronto Raptors were all saying Thursday that while it was tough to wave goodbye to loyal deckhand Jose Calderon and the rapidly improving Ed Davis, the sacrifice was worth it to secure someone as offensively talented as Rudy Gay.
Nobody was more elated by the sudden turn of events that unfolded Wednesday than point guard Kyle Lowry, who clearly was detesting his role as second banana off the bench.
Not only has the underachieving Lowry been handed the starting gig again, but he gets to play pitch-and-catch with Gay, an athletic wing who clearly has the talents to be one of the more dangerous offensive forces in the NBA.
“All I have to do is give him the ball and get out of the way,” Lowry characterized what it will be like playing with Gay, who is expected to make his Raptors debut on Sunday, at home against the Miami Heat.
That’s perhaps overstating it a bit as nobody has yet to vote Gay to an all-star team in his 61/2 NBA seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies.
While talented offensively, Gay’s scoring average of 17.2 points per game is down from last year (19.0) – and he’s requiring 16.4 shots per game to attain that level, which is not an overly efficient ratio.
Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo was not at Thursday’s practice to offer his rationale behind the trade that sent Calderon and Davis, plus a second-round draft pick in 2013, to the Grizzlies.
Along with Gay, the Raptors also received centre Hamed Haddad, who will likely be released by Toronto.
Calderon was then flipped by the Grizzlies to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye.
At 16-30 on the year, the Raptors’ playoff hopes are dim – and the arrival of Gay, while adding some offensive spice, likely won’t turn the club into an instant contender.
It will certainly make them more interesting to watch, especially offensively with Gay and DeMar DeRozan at the two-guard spot providing an exciting dynamic when running the floor together.
The Raptors view the trade as a way to signal to Lowry that the team is now his to run for the foreseeable future (which was the plan when he was obtained in a trade with the Houston Rockets before the season started).
Although his year has been marred by injury and inconsistent play, the Raptors still believe the future of the backcourt runs through Lowry, who, at 26, is five years Calderon’s junior.
The loss of Davis – Toronto’s first-round pick from 2010, who has been a pleasant surprise filling in at the power forward spot in place of the injured Andrea Bargnani – is tough.
His 6.7 rebounds per game was tops on the team and his 9.7 points, when factored over 48 minutes, works out to 19.3 – only about three points less than what Gay’s 48-minute average factors in at.
Davis may continue to improve, but his value right now has never been higher. And the Raptors would not have been able to procure a proven offensive talent like Gay away from Memphis if he was not included in the mix.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said the arrival of Gay, 26, helps ease the burden off the entire offence.
“The other teams have another guy to worry about offensively,” Casey said. “No disrespected to Alan [Anderson] and Landry [Fields] but Rudy has a track record, he’s at a star status.
“And you have to game plan for him and his ability to create shots. So that takes pressure off of Kyle, it takes pressure off of DeMar, it takes pressure off Andrea – whoever’s out there.”
And Colangelo, whose contract runs out at the end of this season, hopes the move can help ease some of the pressure off him.
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