SACRAMENTO -- The last time Kings fans saw Rudy Gay in a basketball uniform, he was pounding the floor of the Golden 1 Center in frustration after tearing his right Achilles tendon. It was the dramatic conclusion of Gay’s career in Sacramento, one that left even the most hardened fan filled with emotion.
The veteran forward left Sacramento over the summer, turning down a $14.3 million player option. He’s now a member of the San Antonio Spurs who are in town to face off with the Kings in the preseason opener.
“I’ve never even been in the other side of this building, so I’m learning,” Gay said following shootaround. “Little bit of emotions. I’m looking at the spot where I hurt myself and I’m just glad to be back out here and healthy.”
Gay, 31, spent three and a half seasons in Sacramento uniform, playing Robin to DeMarcus Cousins’ Batman. He finished his Kings career averaging 19.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists over 223 games.
“It was a learning experience,” Gay said of his time in Sacramento. “I met a lot of great people. Some of the best fans I’ve ever played for. A lot of learning. I’ve been through a lot here and it’s going to mold and shape the rest of my career.”
Despite the injury, Gay has been cleared for basketball duties. He’s spent the week training with his teammates in preparation for the 2017-18 season. He’s chomping at the bit to get his first game action, but coach Gregg Popovich is going to err on the side of caution when it comes to early season playing time.
“They say not, I say yes, that’s just what I do, I’m more conservative,” Popovich said as to whether Gay’s playing time should be limited. “I’ll probably bring him along more slowly than he’s going to want to. When he gets after me like Manu (Ginobili) or Timmy (Duncan) does, then I’ll lighten up.”
Gay will not play Monday night in Sacramento. Popovich will let him get stronger and more comfortable in the Spurs system. He’ll be asked to play both forward positions this season in San Antonio and he looked noticeably bigger as he fielded questions sitting courtside.
The Kings open their 2017-18 preseason against the Spurs Monday night at Golden 1 Center. Sacramento travels to San Antonio later in the week where they’ll see Gay and his teammates at the AT&T Center on Friday evening.