That's saying quite a bit, considering the 27-year-old averaged 20.1 points on 48.2 percent shooting and 5.5 rebounds in 55 games for the Kings last season. After exercising his player option for the 2014-15 campaign, he's looking to help his young, talented team climb the daunting ladder that is the Western Conference.
Gay chatted with Bleacher Report in promotion of the BOOMco. Blaster Challenge that will pit his team against Stephen Curry's and air during Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Sports Awards 2014 on Thursday, July 17. Gay gave his take on a number of different topics ranging from his plans for next season and the faces new and old he'll have around him to which players have a spot on his all-time starting five.
Bleacher Report: When you saw the red carpets getting rolled out for the NBA’s free-agent frenzy recruiting trips, did you wish you were a part of that, or were you glad that your situation was already settled?
Rudy Gay: I was glad it was settled. That doesn’t seem fun to me at all, getting pulled each and every way. Obviously, with that situation you have to pick the best situation for you and your family. But being locked in is way better for me than doing that.
B/R: What all goes into making a decision like that? We like to paint these as strictly basketball moves, but there’s obviously more involved, right?
RG: It’s more involved in that. You know, people just see us on TV, and they see maybe a city name or what’s displayed on our jerseys, but they don’t realize that we have to move our whole families there, have to become a citizen of that state, of that city and actually move there for most of the year.
So, when guys move, it’s definitely 50 percent for situations and for their careers and the other 50 is for their family.
B/R: Last season, you moved to the Kings and your field-goal percentage jumped almost 10 points after you got there. What changed for you offensively in Sacramento?
RG: When I got there, coach [Michael] Malone had a plan for me. He had a plan; he had been watching me in the league, he knew how I’d be more dangerous and how I could help the team. I thank him for that.
In Toronto…I came to Toronto way heavier than I wanted to. I went about my training that summer way differently than I ever had. It’s a lot of different factors.
B/R: What does having the backing of your coach and knowing that he has an idea and a role carved out for you do for a player?
RG: It means a lot. Obviously, being with coach—and I had freedom in Toronto—but in Sacramento, Coach Malone had a vision for me offensively and defensively. He knew getting there where I’d be most effective and he helped me with that. So, I definitely thank him for that.
But at that point, I just want to use that to try to make the team better. I feel like it worked for a little bit, but for the most part, with a training camp under my belt, I think we could really be a better team.
B/R: Speaking of your team, DeMarcus Cousins put up almost 23 points and 12 rebounds last season, and he doesn’t turn 24 until August. Is there another level that he can reach still, and what needs to happen for him to take that next step?
RG: I think so, I mean, he’s a great talent. On top of that, he’s very young. I think he can actually do that by just [getting] more experience, playing basketball. I think him being a part of USA Basketball will help him.
We all know where his problems lay. On the court, sometimes his emotions get the best of him. He plays with passion, and obviously he’s a hard guy for anybody [to cover].
That center position is tough, it’s not too many centers out there anymore. For him to be the kind of player he is, he’s kind of revolutionizing the position.
B/R: You guys picked up Nik Stauskas in the draft lottery. What have you seen from him, and what do you look for him to add to this team?
RG: If he can shoot anything like he did in college that would help us tremendously, because we didn’t have any of that last year. Just that part of his game helps us.
I’ve seen him in summer league, and he hasn’t really had a chance to show everything he can do. In college, he showed that he can be a playmaker, he can score the ball and also be a ball-handler. I’d like to see him do a lot of that this year.
B/R: You guys also added Darren Collison in free agency. Your general manager [Pete D’Alessandro] said one of the things he liked was Collison's quickness and how that can help you guys increase the pace. Do you have a preference playing at any specific speed?
RG: I think a great player has to be able to play at any pace and in any part of the game has to be successful, so no, I don’t have a preference. But I think my game definitely is better with a faster-paced team.
With Darren, I think the fact that he is quick helps us, but more than anything, I think his defense helps us. He can really stop point guards.
B/R: Getting back to you, you do a lot of different things really well on the court. Is there any one area of your game that you feel gets overlooked by the fans and analysts?
RG: I think people see me as a scorer, but I’ve really worked on trying to be a playmaker for these past two years. I really enjoy making my teammates better. Playing in Sacramento this past season, Coach Malone has really helped me with letting me be just creative with trying to make these guys better and trying to help my teammates out.
B/R: It seems like the star power at the small forward position is rising by the second. Which player at that spot do you feel is the toughest to defend?
RG: That’s a tough question. Obviously, you have your Melos, you have your KDs. KD is the MVP, you can’t have this conversation without saying him. But that’s obvious, you have your Melos, KDs and LeBrons.
That’s obvious, but I think the other guys that are tough is…what’s another tough guy…well, I hope these guys are saying me. That’s all I can say. I hope they say I’m a tough guy. That’s a tough one with all these guys. Melo is really tough, because he is very physical, very physical.
B/R: This question might be even tougher: Who gets a spot on Rudy Gay’s all-time starting five?
RG: I say at point guard, it would be Magic. Shooting guard would have to be Michael Jordan, of course. Small forward would be Scottie Pippen, for sure. I was a big Scottie Pippen fan. Power forward would have to be [pauses] that’s tough. I’d say KG. In his prime, he did so much for a team. At center, I’d say Shaq.
B/R: The BOOMco Blaster Challenge sounds like a really fun idea. What’s been your favorite part about that process since you got involved with it?
RG: The best part about it is actually getting to use the product. It’s fun, it’s really fun.
Obviously, it’s a kid’s product, and we all know that. But the fact that people even our age, mine and Steph’s, we can get into it and actually sit there and spend time playing with these blasters, it says a lot about the product.
It’s kind of timeless. It makes you feel like a kid again.
B/R: Do you have any plans on how to guide Team Rudy to a win?
RG: I got a couple plans. I’ve always been a pretty accurate blaster, ever since I had the product in my hand. But you’ll just have to watch and see.
B/R: If Team Rudy prevails, is that something Steph’s going to be hearing about the next time you cross paths?
RG: Oh yeah, honestly, next time I see him, I’m definitely going to have a blaster in my hand.
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