SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 2: Rudy Gay #8 of the Utah Jazz warms up before the game against the Sacramento Kings on November 2, 2021 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Rudy Gay Nearing Return As Practice Ramps Up

Back participating in a full capacity, Rudy Gay is nearing a return to the court — but that won't come at the expense of rushing him back

When Utah GM Justin Zanik spoke with the media last week, he provided an update regarding the health of offseason addition Rudy Gay.

According to Zanik, Gay, who is recovering from right heel surgery, was currently participating in "controlled court work."

"We haven't had practice so we're, you know, doing this normal routine to play with him on ramping up contact. … Things are going well," Zanik said. "It's a progression, and he's in the middle of that. Now that we are home for 10 days, I think it's a great period where, even if we aren't having practice, we are having an environment where we can set stuff up for 2-on-2, 3-on-3, 4-on-4, and then integrate fully into practice."

While Zanik offered no more details at that time, Gay is now making significant strides in potentially returning to the court one week later. On Monday, he was a full participant in practice and spoke with the media afterward, updating them on his health and status.

"This is a process, trying to get back and with the players after the season has started," Gay said. "It's a process, and I feel good. … My body feels good, and I think me being on the court can help this team."

But just because he's back practicing with the team in a full capacity, it doesn't mean that Gay is returning to the court anytime soon. Head coach Quin Snyder said it's neither up to Gay or him for when Gay gets to put on jersey again and see real action on the court.

"I think first it's good to have him involved in practice," Snyder said on Monday. "As far as when he actually comes back in a game, that's not a decision for him or myself. … It's for Eric Phillips and Eric Waters. They'll let him know when he's ready. ... He's working towards that."

Gay had offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his right heel, an injury he's been dealing with for 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 a month ago. "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."

While Gay feels physically healthy, especially when it comes to his heel, he admitted that it's not as simple as being healthy and getting back on the court. The biggest thing for him is making sure that this injury doesn't lead to another one that might keep him out longer than intended.

"This is one of those things where you want to play for a long time, and I'm just coming off of surgery, so the last thing I want to be is sidelined again because of it," Gay said. "We are going to make sure that everything is right. I'm continuing to get stronger and stronger, so this won't be a problem."

The most challenging part of getting back on the court isn't the heel itself but more about getting his wind back. Conditioning will play a significant role for when he returns, which is why he's also practicing with the SLC Stars.

"It's gradual, I did that for me to build up my stamina, get my wind and try new things," Gay said. "I say it's more conditioning. … Wind is definitely an issue in Utah, it's tough."

Gay came to Utah for the chance to pursue a championship, and he doesn't want anything getting in the way of that.

"This is a group of good guys, a group of really mature guys and guys that have won," Gay said. "I'm a pro, and I'm a competitor, and I've seen places where I can assert myself in places 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."

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