by Charlie O. Mallonee
Rudy Gay fell to the floor at the Golden 1 Center on Wednesday night with 14.3-seconds to go in the third quarter of the game with the Indiana Pacers. When that happened, everything about the Kings current campaign changed and what will happen with the team’s personnel in 2017-18 may also have been affected as well.
The diagnosis is as bad as it gets
A full MRI on Thursday revealed that Gay suffered a full rupture of the left Achilles tendon. The tendon will require surgery to repair. The surgery has not yet been scheduled.
Rehabilitation is tough and recovery is not assured
Dr. Steven M. Raikin wrote in Sports Illustrated back in April 2015 about the recovery issues associated with an Achilles tendon and his notes are sobering:
- The Achilles is the largest and strongest tendon in the body so when it is injured it is always serious
- 70-percent of Achilles ruptures are sports related and nearly one-half happen while playing basketball
- It tends to be a “weekend warrior” type injury but pro athletes are not exempt: see Kobe Bryant
- Following a rupture the tendon almost never returns to 100-percent and 36-percent of NFL and NBA players are never able to return to pro sports following the injury
- The recovery/rehab period is usually about a year in order to return to competition
- Players returning after an Achilles surgery experience up to a 50-percent decrease in power and will usually play 3-4 seasons after they return to competition
Rudy’s plans for next season have probably just changed
Gay had notified the Kings that he intended to opt-out of the final year of his three-year contract to test the free agent market at the end of the 2016-17 season. A player with Gay’s skills and experience under the new salary cap and CBA should be able to upgrade their salary package considerably in “the Association’s” current market conditions. The Kings were expected to bid for Gay’s services but in the open market there were certainly no guarantees that he would be back in purple and white in 2017-18.
Given the sudden turn of events and the one-year rehab process that Gay is facing, a $14,263,566 contract for next season may look much more attractive than it did 48-hours ago. No team is going to be willing to invest big money in a player until they know what his abilities are going to be on the floor following recovery and rehab. Gay has to protect his family and himself by staying under contract to Sacramento while recovers and then hopefully has the chance to show NBA teams he is ready to play in the second-half of next season.
This changes things for the Kings personnel decision makers
NBA observers had been calling on the Kings to trade Gay ever since the forward had declared he intended to opt-out of the final year of his contract. The experts said the team could not afford to just let a talent like Gay walk away for nothing in return.
The problem for the Sacramento management has been their team’s flirtation with the number eight spot in the Western Conference and the chance to make the playoffs. Portland, Denver and Sacramento have all been battling for that final playoff position and the Kings believe they needed Gay’s 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game to make the playoffs a reality for their team. It is difficult to argue with their point of view.
Now, the dream of making the playoffs continues but it does so without Rudy Gay’s considerable talents in the lineup. The fact that Gay will probably be on their roster and unavailable until at least mid-January 2018 also changes how the Kings have to plan their player personnel acquisitions and revenue for next season.
There is a little light at the end of the tunnel
The Kings have played 11 games this season without Rudy Gay in the starting lineup when he was sidelined with a hip flexor injury. Sacramento had a record of 5-6 in those games without Gay in the lineup.
The Kings have to hope that their production without Gay in the starting lineup was not a fluke and that they can pick up the slack in quick order.