Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NBA [Print without images]

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Gay returns to Grizzlies amid fanfare

Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Grizzlies serenaded Rudy Gay on Thursday even though he had already agreed to remain in Memphis.

But before he actually signed the five-year contract on Thursday at the FedExForum, he watched a video presentation of some of his highlight plays, a live band played and local politicians praised him for his charitable contributions in Memphis.

Rudy Gay
"I feel like I won an Oscar or something," Rudy Gay said as the Grizzlies announced his signing with a video presentation, a live band and local politicians.

"I feel like I won an Oscar or something," Gay said.

Gay on Thursday inked an $82 million deal to stay with the only team the four-year NBA veteran has known. More than 150 fans attended the signing ceremony, a show of the optimism for a Grizzlies team with five starters returning from last season.

The Grizzlies' playoff run fell short and they finished with a 40-42 record.

Owner Michael Heisley, who signed general manager Chris Wallace and coach Lionel Hollins to multiyear contracts earlier this year, said he expects the Grizzlies to reach the playoffs with Gay.

"We talked today and he is committed to getting us further along in the playoffs than the Memphis Grizzlies have ever been," Heisley said. "That's what we are looking for this year. Not next year, this year."

Gay turned down a five year, $50 million offer last season and became a restricted free agent. He landed the first maximum deal in this frenetic free agent summer, before he was made a scheduled trip to Minnesota. He also was lining up meetings with the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks and Miami Heat.

An athletic, 6-foot-8 forward, Gay is the longest tenured current Memphis player and was second on the team in scoring last year, averaging 19.6 points and 5.9 rebounds. He makes up a young starting five which includes guards Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo, forward Zach Randolph and center Marc Gasol.

He's also aware the big contract means more pressure to lead the team to the Western Conference playoffs. Last season, the team fell short of their first .500 season since 2006 and posted the second best improvement in wins behind Oklahoma City.

Hollins and Wallace both said Gay will be expected not only to score, but also to rebound, play defense and provide leadership.

"It's just not about the adulation of ESPN or the fans or any of that stuff, because when you ultimately win, everybody gets credit, and the person who's carrying the biggest load gets the most credit," Hollins said. "You don't have to score all the points to show that you're the best player on the team, and I think he's moving toward that."

During the news conference, Gay struggled to find the right word to describe the meaning of his contract before Hollins chimed in with "expectations."

"I'm ready for that," Gay said. "The kind of progression we made as a team under coach Hollins this summer definitely was a big factor in me coming back here."