Rudy Gay had become one of the biggest names on the trade rumor mill last week, but Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley put an end to that talk on Friday. Heisley told The Commercial Appeal that Gay will not be traded. In his most recent speech batting down rumors about a valued player, Heisley proved he believes the Grizzlies core can win a title.
Heisley was blunt in addressing the trade rumors surrounding Gay. Heisley said, "We're not looking to trade Rudy Gay. We're not shopping him. Period. Do we sit around and ask ourselves, 'What if we traded Rudy Gay? What would we get?' No. Right now, Rudy is part of our future."
Gay's high salary was said to be a concern. Gay is due $16.4 million next season and $16.5 million in 2013-14. The Grizzlies have $62.5 million committed to eight players for next season and $58.4 million just to Gay, Randolph, Gasol and Conley.
Grizzlies fans worried about how Heisley plans to pay Gay and the other three core players (Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley) found an indignant response from Heisley. Heisley said:
Our plan was always to protect the core. I've got the core for four years. If we ever decide to do anything, it won't be because of salary. We're going to build a team around this core group. We understand Rudy's salary. We understood it when we gave it to him. We're not looking to cut salary. We're looking to win a championship.
That's the response Grizzlies fans have come to expect from the billionaire owner. Anyone who dares to question Heisley's vision for the team is met with his ire.
Heisley also showed high emotion when telling Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal last year after the playoffs that Gay wouldn't be traded. Heisley told Calkins, "Would you please make it clear that we're not trading Rudy Gay?...There's nothing more untrue than that."
His emotional statements about these trade rumors should let people know, as he emphasized, that he wants to keep the four-man core group of the Grizzlies together. Despite the mounting costs to come, Heisley is committed to them and wants to win a title with them.
By saying that the Grizzlies plan to "protect" their core, Heisley related that he doesn't want to trade any of them, although he stopped short of saying that they're untradeable.
Heisley's belief that the Grizzlies can win a title with Gay, Gasol, Randolph and Conley isn't far off. Gay is a flashy scorer who can make plays in transition, drive to the basket, hit shots from midrange and knock down three-pointers. Gasol is a nice inside scorer who rebounds well and blocks shots extraordinarily well.
When he's in full condition, Randolph is a 20-10 player who is the most dominant offensive rebounder in the game. Conley is a point guard on the rise as an all-around stud who could be among the top five at the position going into the season.
The core benefits from having good role players around them like Dante Cunningham and Tony Allen.
This team doesn't scare people on paper. But when upon seeing them forcing turnovers like no other team can and running in transition or shutting down Dwyane Wade until garbage time, people get edgy.
Heisley recognizes that and relishes it.
He also recognizes how big a part of the Grizzlies' success Rudy Gay is. That's why Heisley said while telling The Commercial Appeal he isn't looking to trade Gay that it'd take someone better than Gay to lure him away.
Anyway, Memphis would be quite different without Gay, who led the team in scoring this year and field-goal attempts per game the last two seasons. The Grizzlies would be much more reliant upon Gasol and Randolph on offense, less capable in transition and showing a hole at small forward on defense.
Heisley wants the Grizzlies to win a championship with the core the Grizzlies have right now. He knows that just a scant number of players can replace Gay and help them win a title with Randolph still able to perform at a high level. The Grizzlies owner is invested in winning it all with these four players.