Rudy Gay Ready To Make The Most Of His World Cup Opportunity
• VIDEO: Rudy Gay on Phantom Cam
Rudy Gay was not originally on the USA Basketball National Team roster when the team convened in Las Vegas to practice earlier this summer.
He is now, and he plans to make the most of it. After Paul George suffered a broken leg, and Kevin Durant withdrew, Gay reached out to USA National Team managing director Jerry Colangelo to express his desire to again be part of the program and he was given the opportunity to compete for a spot on the USA World Cup roster.
The 6-8 forward wants to be on the team, and he is quite familiar with international competition. He has played for USA Basketball since 2005 and was a valuable member of the 2010 USA National Team that returned from Istanbul with the FIBA World title. Also named a finalist for the 2012 Olympic Team, the idea of playing with the best in the world while competing for his country is something that Gay obviously believes in doing.
He has worked hard to stay in shape, and he said he felt physically capable of playing with his teammates in a hard, physical practice Thursday at the Quest Multisport Complex in Chicago.
“I felt good out there and I felt strong physically,” Gay said. “It was good to be out there with the guys and I know I have a lot of work to do, but I plan to do it in order to be able to help this team contribute.”
Gay does not have USA Basketball made, and neither does anybody else at this point. Colangelo told reporters after practice that the original plan was to name the 12 members of the team after it completes its practices and exhibitions in New York next week. However, that may no longer be the case.
“We may not make it a hard and fast deadline,” Colangelo explained. “We may need some time after that to name the team.”
Colangelo said he was impressed with Gay’s preparation after his first practice with the team. “Rudy was on our 2010 World Championship team,” Colangelo said. “He made a great contribution there, he’s in pretty good shape, and he stepped in today like he hadn’t missed a beat, either.”
Gay averaged 7.0 point and 2.9 rebounds per game in nine games for that undefeated team.
Extending the decision time for this year’s selection would help Gay. While he feels strong and competitive on a physical basis, the other players on the team have had longer to learn the plays and the sets the team will use, and that gives them an advantage over Gay.
“I plan on catching up and learning quickly,” Gay said. “That’s part of my job and my responsibility. I have to learn where I’m supposed to be and know what I’m supposed to do. Others may have had a bit longer to learn, but I will catch up.”
Gay said he feels no pressure to try to impress his coaches or his teammates and try to do things that an MVP-type of player would do on the court.
“I wish I could play like an MVP,” said Gay, who turns 28 on Saturday. “But that’s not who I am at this point. I am a player who will play hard and can contribute. I don’t have to carry the team and that would not be smart for me to do. I have to play my style of basketball. That’s what got me to this point in my career, not by trying to be something I’m not."
USA assistant coach Tom Thibodeau was impressed with how Gay handled himself in his first scrimmage. The demanding Bulls coach saw effort and production from the forward.
“He looked good to me,” Thibodeau said. “There was a lot of effort there – as there was throughout this practice – but for a guy who did not play in Las Vegas, he was ready to play. He was solid from a conditioning point of view and he also played well.”
Compliments from Thibodeau should never be taken lightly. He views practice as the way for all players to get better, and he will not hesitate to let it be known when he sees a player taking a shortcut on the road to success.
Gay brings quite a bit to USA Basketball. He averaged 20.0 points per game in 2013-14 while splitting time between Toronto and Sacramento, and he also averaged 6.0 rebounds per game.
Gay started for the USA White team in Thursday's scrimmage along with Derrick Rose, James Harden, Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis. Could that mean Gay will also start in the exhibition game with Brazil Saturday night?
Gay said that was not a question that he could answer. “We don’t know who is starting,” Gay said. “Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) keeps that in his back pocket until it’s time.”
Whether he starts or not, look for the enthusiastic Gay to leave everything he has on the United Center court.