Entering his 16th season in the NBA, Rudy Gay has seen and done almost everything one would expect from someone with his talents.
But the only thing missing from his impressive resume is an NBA title appearance. He has made the playoffs three times (2021 Memphis, 2018/19 San Antonio), but has yet to play for the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy.
When he became a free agent last offseason, Utah immediately caught his eye. Not only did the Jazz just finished a season in which they finished with the best record in the league, but they are also a team ready to win a championship.
But before he can enter a pitch with Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley and co., Gay must first be in good health. He underwent surgery in the offseason to remove a bone spur in his right heel, an injury he has suffered for five years.
“I was never injured, it was just to relieve a pain that I have been playing with for a little while,” Gay said Friday. “I felt like after last season I was done with it.… I consider myself a very difficult guy to play with for five years.
Without a schedule for his return, Gay has been carrying out all kinds of activities in the field, but has yet to progress to contact exercises. He won’t be in Utah’s final two preseason games next week and could miss the start of the regular season.
But he is in no hurry to come back as getting back to full health remains his top priority. He’s ready to trade games in October so he can be in good shape in April, May, and June when it matters most.
“The fact that this team was the No.1 team in the NBA last year without me gives me all the cushion I need,” Gay said of his return to the game. “It’s a good team. … I just want to contribute and make them overcome the bump, and that being said, I have to be 100% healthy.
Not rushing after an injury is an expected decision of a veteran. But playing for an organization like Jazz where health is a top priority has allowed Gay to focus on other aspects of the squad so he’s ready to go when he finally takes the pitch.
“The staff have a different way of doing things this year, and we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Gay said of his early return.
According to Conley, his former Memphis teammate at the start of their career, Gay’s presence has already been felt in the locker room and on the court. Gay has been very clear in helping the younger ones arrive at a much faster pace than usual, a priority as this team is set to win right now.
“I think I’m a veteran more than anything. … It’s a great NBA team and we’re going to win games, ”Gay said. “I’m a pro and I’m a competitor, and I’ve seen places where I can assert myself where the team is lacking. Everyone respects each other and they have great personalities, but in the end the goal is to win. “
Utah returns to action on Monday at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. Closing is set at 7:00 p.m. MST.
Nine days later, the Jazz kick off the 2021-22 regular season on October 20 with a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Departure is at 7:00 PM MST and tickets can be purchased below.
Jazz basketball is back
Join us at Vivint Arena for our opener against the OKC Thunder on October 20. Upper Bowl tickets starting at $ 15 and Lower Bowl starting at $ 49.
Buy your tickets now https://t.co/AB7DPWtvXO pic.twitter.com/jOKgVV7uEP
– utahjazz (@utahjazz) October 8, 2021