SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 04: At the end of the game Gregg Popovich head coach of the San Antonio Spurs greet Rudy Gay #8 of the Utah Jazz. San Antonio Spurs defeat Utah Jazz 111-85 in a preseason game at AT&T Center on October 2, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Rudy Gay Being Smart When It Comes To Rehab

Entering his 16th season in the NBA, Rudy Gay has seen and done almost everything you could expect from someone with his talents.

But the one thing lacking on his impressive resume is an NBA title appearance. He’s been in the postseason 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 this past offseason, Utah immediately caught his eye. Not only were the Jazz coming off a season in which they finished with the best record in the league, they're also a team primed to bring home a championship.

But before he can step onto a court with Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley and co., Gay must get healthy first. He had offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his right heel, an injury he’s been dealing with the past five years.

“I never got hurt, it was just to alleviate some pain I’ve been playing with for a little while,” Gay said on Friday. “I feel like, after last season, I was just done with it. … I see myself as a very tough guy to play with it for five years.”

With no timeline regarding his return, Gay has been doing all sorts of activities on the court—but has yet to progress towards contact drills. He will not be playing in Utah’s final two preseason games next week and could miss the start of the regular season. 

But he’s in no rush to get back as returning fully healthy remains his top priority. He's willing to trade playing games in October so he can be fit 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, that gives me all the cushion I need,” Gay said about his return to the game. “This is a good team. … I just want to contribute and get them over the hump, and with that being said I have to be 100% healthy.”

Not rushing back from injury is a move expected of a veteran. But playing for an organization like the Jazz where health is a massive priority, it's allowed Gay to focus on other aspects of the team so he’s ready to go when he finally hits the court.

“The staff has a different way of going about things this year, and we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Gay said of coming back too early. 

According to Conley, his former teammate in Memphis at the beginning of their careers, Gay’s presence has already been felt in the locker room and court. Gay has been very vocal in helping the younger guys come along at a much quicker rate than usual—a priority because this team is ready to win right now.

“I think being a veteran person more than anything. … This is 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 at the end of the day, the goal is to win.”

Utah returns to action on Monday at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MST. 

Nine days later, the Jazz start the 2021-22 regular season on Oct. 20 with a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. MST and tickets can be purchased below.


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