Trading Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan was likely the biggest move of the summer for the San Antonio Spurs. In landing the Raptors' All-Star guard DeRozan (and parting with their own All-Star in Leonard), the Spurs embarked on a new era that would no longer have Leonard at the center of just about everything.
Perhaps lost in that shuffle was the team's re-signing of veteran swingman Rudy Gay, who opted out of his contract and briefly was a free agent this summer. Gay will be playing with an old friend in DeRozan, whom Gay played with in Toronto for nearly a year in 2013 before Gay was dealt to the Sacramento Kings.
Some are pointing to the Spurs' trading of Leonard as a reason San Antonio might slip in the Western Conference hierarchy. Gay sees the opposite, though, and is confident the Spurs come 2018-19. Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News caught up with Gay at his basketball showcase in Maryland to talk about his health, DeRozan, the season and more:
For starters, Gay is finally 100 percent after last season's valiant but often painful return from the season-ending ruptured left Achilles tendon he suffered in January 2017 with the Sacramento Kings.
"Everything is clicking," he said. "I feel athletic again."
Gay believes DeRozan will fit right in with the Spurs after vowing he would play this season with a chip on his shoulder.
"That's the thing about this whole team – everybody has a chip on his shoulder," Gay said.
"His is just more publicized. But, look, I'm healthy (and have something to prove), LaMarcus (Aldridge) always finds someway to have a chip on his shoulder. Jakob wants to prove he can be a great player. DJ (Dejounte Murray) has a chip on his shoulder because he wants to be known as one of the best at his position.
"But I think we have a great mix of guys, a great basketball team. (Spurs GM) R.C. (Buford) put together a great team. It will be fun to watch."
Recent over/under odds by the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas have the Spurs at 43.5 wins, which, if realized, would likely keep the Spurs out of the playoff mix in 2019. To Gay, though, such talk is nonsense.
"Why were we expected to be so much better last year? Because Kawhi may have come back? He didn't, and we were still a playoff team, really a couple of wins away from being a third or fourth seed in the West."
"They don't have many expectations for us," Gay said. "But the Spurs always exceed the expectations. Don't expect anything less this year."
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