The Toronto Raptors welcomed their newest savior into the fold on Friday and Rudy Gay was certainly afforded the royal treatment upon being introduced to a throng of media at the Air Canada Centre.
It was standing room only at the ACC atrium with many of the people on hand employees of Maple Leaf Sport & Entertainment, who cheered heartily after team president and general manager Bryan Colangelo welcomed the NBA star to Canada.
Although Gay had only just arrived in the city, a large photo showing the new addition in a Raptors uniform – thanks Photoshop – was positioned behind the podium where Gay addressed questions from the media alongside Colangelo and coach Dwane Casey.
Originally drafted No. 8 overall in the 2006 NBA draft, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound wing has long been a player that Colangelo has coveted.
“I like when players call me out occasionally,” Colangelo said. “And when I first spoke with Rudy the other night after the trade had been consummated, he asked me point blank, “Why didn’t you just draft me in the first place?’ “Well, we got ya. One way or another we got ya.”
The Raptors announced Wednesday night that they had acquired Gay and backup centre Hamed Haddadi from the Grizzlies in exchange for guard Jose Calderon, forward Ed Davis, a second-round draft choice in 2013 and cash considerations.
The Grizzlies then traded Calderon to the Detroit Pistons for forwards Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince.
The Raptors, who appear destined to miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season this year, are hoping that Gay’s presence will help turn the fortunes of the struggling franchise around.
Gay has averaged 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds in 479 career games and is a close friend of Kyle Lowry, the Raptors point guard.
“When I heard about the trade it was a whirlwind,” Gay said. “I’ve been in Memphis for 6 1/2 years. The first thing I did was call Kyle Lowry who is like a brother to me. And he said, if you come here we can do some big things. From then on I was comfortable with the whole situation.
“I just want to come here and try to be the hard working veteran I think this team needs.”
Casey said that he sees Gay as being the go-to guy on offence for the Raptors, something that Gay said he is comfortable with.
“I think I know how to win now,” he said. “I know how to get the team to play. It’s not easy to come into the league and know that. It took me a little while and I feel I’m a better player and a better person because of it.”
Casey stresses defence first and Gay, who has often been criticized for a lack of defensive savvy, was asked how that would sit with him.
“I think that’s not as fair, I mean there’s a lot of things that’s not fair,” Gay said, bristling to the question. “If you look back and see, at the end of games I’m guarding the best players. So I take that challenge.
“None of that really matters to me what people say because I know at the end of the day I want to win. And whatever it takes, whether it’s stopping, whether it’s hitting the last shot, I’ll be the person doing it.”
The Raptors initially said that Gay would not be able to play until Sunday when Toronto plays the Miami Heat at the ACC But Colangelo said that there’s a possibility that if all the paperwork and physicals of all the players involved in the trades gets done that Gaye could be in the lineup Friday night when the Raptors host the Los Angeles Clippers.