When the Memphis Grizzlies raced out of the gate to offer Rudy Gay a max deal (five years, $84 million) on the first day of free agency, it was as shocking as seeing a good new episode of Entourage. Nobody saw it coming.
“I was surprised,” he said. “Actually, I was really surprised. When I found out they did that, I was like, ‘Wow.’ “
More money means the expectations game changes for Gay. He goes from being the “he’ll be special if he can get it all together” to being the “he’s making max money, what is wrong with him?” guy.
Gay is a slasher, but he needs some consistency beyond 15 feet now. Gay scored 19.6 points per game last season for the Grizzlies but needed 16 shots a game to do it — he has got to become more efficient.
Memphis was everybody’s favorite little surprise last year, but this year they will not surprise anybody. They added some depth with Tony Allen and draft pick Xavier Henry (if they ever stop playing around and sign him). But it will come down to player improvement, and Rudy Gay will now take too much blame or get too much credit for what happens. It comes with the max contract (down in the fine print).
Kevin Durant keeps building up superstar accolades with second All-Star MVP
CHARLOTTE – When Kevin Durant won All-Star MVP in 2012, he was asked whether he considered himself a star, a label he had resisted.
“I wouldn’t say that just yet,” Durant said. “Hopefully. Hopefully soon I can say that.”
The notion was silly then. Durant had already made two All-NBA first teams and finished second for MVP.
But that All-Star MVP started to change how Durant presented himself. He made another All-NBA first team, again finished second for MVP and led the Thunder to the NBA Finals that season.
“In 2012, I started to feel like I started to hit that elite level,” Durant said. “All that stuff in one year was pretty exciting to me.”
The hits have kept rolling since.
Durant has added an MVP, two titles and two Finals MVPs. Tonight, he claimed another All-Star MVP. The Warriors star scored 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting to lead LeBron James‘ team to a 178-164 win.
“I just keep trying to rack them up, I guess,” Durant said.
That’s seven years between his All-Star MVPs. Few players sustain that elite level – starring among stars – so long. Only LeBron James (12 years), Michael Jordan (10 years), Kobe Bryant (nine years), Oscar Robertson (eight years) have gone so long between their first and last All-Star MVPs.
Durant, 30, appears to have plenty left in the tank.
Of course, the impending question: Where? Durant can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and this weekend included plenty of speculation.
Tonight’s game gave Knicks fans reason to fanaticize. New York’s presumed targets with its double-max cap space, Durant and Kyrie Irving showed strong chemistry. Half Durant’s baskets were assisted by Irving, who sent five of his six assists to Durant (the other an alley-oop to former teammate LeBron).
Asked which of his All-Star teammates he best meshed with, Durant refused to name one.
“You don’t really have to do too much when you’re playing with so many great players,” Durant said. “You can do what you’re just best at.”
Team LeBron starts playing defense first, comes from 20 down to win All-Star Game
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Midway through the third quarter of Saturday’s All-Star Game, Team LeBron started to care.
Down 20 at one point early in the third, Team LeBron came out of a mid-quarter timeout with a different energy. The “bench” guys on the court started defending with the kind of relative intensity usually reserved for the final minutes of this exhibition (when it’s close), the players on the bench were standing and cheering like it was a playoff game, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal started knocking down everything, and the game just shifted. It culminated when Damian Lillard tied the game up with a 35-foot three.
Team LeBron kept up the momentum, owned the fourth as Durant went 3-of-3 from beyond the arc in the quarter, and Team LeBron got the win 178-164.
“It was our second unit that came in — Dame, Klay, Brad Beal, LaMarcus, Ben Simmons, KAT,” LeBron said after the game about what turned the momentum. “They came in and just changed the whole complexion of the game. We got stops, and, obviously, Dame and Klay caught fire from beyond the arc, and that allowed us to get back in the game.”
Durant was named MVP, a clear choice with his second-half play in particular.
The one guy who was intense from the start was Antetokounmpo, who scored the first six points for Team Giannis. He didn’t slow down on his way to 20 first-half points, plus he had one of the game’s great highlights on a bounce pass alley-oop from Curry.
Antetokounmpo wasn’t the only Buck hot to start, Khris Middleton entered the game midway through the first quarter and drained three shots from beyond the arc in a row. In the first nine minutes of the game, the Bucks were beating Team LeBron 28-27.
The favorite crowd moment of the first half was when future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki walked on the court and splashed a couple of threes.