‘I know I still got a lot to give’: Rudy Gay competes for a role on the Golden State Warriors
The 37-year-old is a preseason non-roster invitee who is mentoring younger players
SAN FRANCISCO – While asking guard Chris Paul where they were going to dinner last Saturday after the Golden State Warriors’ preseason opening win, 37-year-old forward Rudy Gay stood in front of a locker that already had his nameplate atop it. Meanwhile, several other Warriors hopefuls are sharing lockers.
Warriors stars Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson have also been “very welcoming” to Gay, who has been checking out potential apartments this week. The reality, however, is Gay competing for a roster spot for the first time in his 17-season career.
“The Warriors are just showing me respect [with the nameplate on the locker],” Gay said to Andscape.
Gay has averaged 15.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists with five teams during his lengthy NBA career. Currently the eighth-oldest NBA player, Gay averaged 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in 56 games as a reserve with the Utah Jazz in the 2022-23 season. Even with Gay’s respected résumé, he signed with the Warriors as a non-guaranteed roster invitee and has to compete to keep his NBA career alive during its twilight.
The Warriors currently have two open roster spots, but are only expected to use one before the regular season begins.
“I’ve been humbled so many times in my career, so it wasn’t nothing,” said Gay about agreeing to a make-good contract. “This is the first time. Hopefully, the last. But it’s one of those things that you come in there and show my work. At the end of the day, throw some s— at the wall and see if it sticks.
“I know I still got a lot to give and I can help a team in this situation. I feel like it’s a pretty good situation.”
Said Warriors coach Steve Kerr to Andscape: “He loves the game. When guys really love the game, it shows because they don’t want to give it up. They still want to play as long as they can. And that only comes if you truly love the game.”
Gay added that even as a non-roster invitee the Warriors haven’t made him feel like “an outcast.” He is also truly enjoying being a part of a team where he is not the oldest player (Paul is 38), and there are currently eight players on the roster older than 30.
“I’m not the oldest person on a team for once,” said Gay with a smile after practice Oct. 5. “To actually got into a locker room where I can hear some music that I can actually understand is refreshing. Today was Throwback Thursday. So, it was all my stuff. When you think of Throwback Thursday, we don’t think about Mary J. Blige, Usher. But, here, that’s what it is, man.
“I see why they’ve had so much success. Everybody knows their role. Everybody knows their position, down to the music. It’s refreshing… I knew this is a team that already had things figured out. So [I] just sit there, being ready for your turn and make the best of your opportunity at the end of the day. This is something I can teach my kids. I’ve been in every situation the league can offer. So, this is part of my story.”
Kerr said he has spoken to Gay about his make-good situation. Like Gay, Kerr had a lengthy NBA career as well, retiring at 37 in 2003 with the San Antonio Spurs. Unlike Gay, Kerr was offered an opportunity to re-sign with San Antonio but took a job as an NBA television analyst for TNT.
Kerr said his body told him it was time to retire. Gay, who has overcome a torn Achilles tendon, says his body still feels great. The 6-foot-8, 250-pounder had four points and four rebounds in 6:34 of play against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 7.
So far, Kerr has been impressed.
“There have been no promises, but he is here to try to make the team,” Kerr said. “He’s had a really good first few days of camp. He’s a good player. Big to have a guy that size, that skilled. He’s impressive …
“I’ve always felt is just really let the three weeks play out before you have to make the decision. You can start jumping to conclusions and then you change your mind a week later. So, we just play it out. But he’s doing a really good job.”
The Warriors appear to be seeking a 14th man who is a veteran, has a great locker room presence and can help at a moment’s notice when called upon. What also can be a great attribute for a 14th man, as former Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala was, is being a mentor to younger players on the team. Along with being a vet who understands the role, what also helps Gay’s cause is that promising young forward Jonathan Kuminga already describes him as a mentor.
Kuminga, who turned 21 on Oct. 6 and has had an up-and-down career, had game highs of 24 points and eight rebounds off the bench during the Warriors’ 125-108 preseason win against the Lakers.
“We got Rudy Gay now and we got [Chris Paul],” Kuminga said after the Lakers game. “Those two people always come talk to me every single day. I’m trying to create that relationship that can stay forever and throughout my career, I want them to be there every single day helping me. And so far, I’ve been having Rudy and CP talking to me, that I need to do this, this is what I need to do to get better, and I feel like it’s been working.
“They’ve been around this league for, CP for 19 years and Rudy, it’s his 18th year. So, just gaining knowledge from those guys every single day is helping me.”
Gay said he considered make-good opportunities from several NBA teams. But just three years away from 40, Gay saw the best opportunity to compete for a championship with the Warriors. Curry, Green, Thompson and the Warriors have gone to the NBA Finals six times since 2014, winning four titles.
“If you’re not competing for a championship 18 years in, what are you playing for?” Gay said. “I train my body all summer. The season is long. A lot of flights. You’re away from your family. You got to do it for something, especially at this point in my life.”