Gay's magic number: 8

Rockets draft Spalding alum, will trade him to Grizzlies

June 29, 2006|By PAUL MCMULLEN | PAUL MCMULLEN,SUN REPORTER

The chip on Rudy Gay's shoulder grew last night.

For nearly an hour, the 19-year-old from the suburbs of Baltimore sat at Madison Square Garden and waited for his name to be called by commissioner David Stern at the NBA draft.

There was speculation that the Toronto Raptors might take him with the No. 1 pick, and Gay twice worked out for the Charlotte Bobcats, who had the No. 3 selection. Among maybe the most level crop of prospects ever seen in a single draft, however, Gay was the odd man out until the Houston Rockets took him with the eighth pick.

An industry source confirmed ESPN and Houston Chronicle reports that the Rockets would trade Gay to the Memphis Grizzlies for Shane Battier.

Gay is a 6-foot-8, 222-pound leaper who can run the floor and score in transition or with the three-pointer, but had grown weary of questions about his drive and desire that had been raised by NBA executives since April, when he left Connecticut and placed his name in the draft.

As the Boston Celtics prepared to take Villanova guard Randy Foye with the seventh selection, ESPN commentators raised lingering questions about Gay's assertiveness. He wore a gray suit and squirmed in the green room, where a microphone picked up his anxiety.

"I'm ready."

"Tired of waiting."

"Gosh."

"Ain't looking good."

"Oh, my goodness."

Assorted mock drafts had Gay going anywhere from 1 to 8, but the night was a disappointment for a teenager who grew up on the east side of Baltimore County and was groomed at the Cecil-Kirk Rec Center in the city. Gay played his high school ball at Eastern Tech and Archbishop Spalding, before playing for Connecticut in the Big East Conference.

The volatility of this draft included rumors that Toronto saw no merit in holding on to the top pick, and that it attempted to deal for a proven point guard. Despite claims that the No. 7 pick could prove just as worthy as the No. 1 selection, Boston felt so uneasy that it traded Foye and two others to Portland for a package that included Sebastian Telfair.

Earlier yesterday, there were still reports that Toronto might take Gay with the No. 1 pick, but the Raptors chose Andrea Bargnani, the 7-1 Italian. Gay's second workout for Charlotte was observed by new executive Michael Jordan. After that prolonged look, the Bobcats selected Adam Morrison, the gunner from Gonzaga who led the NCAA in scoring.

That decision had financial ramifications, as Gay will get $1.9 million under the NBA rookie scale for 2006-07, compared to the $3 million Morrison will get from Charlotte.

"He felt he had a real chance to go to Charlotte, but after that, Rudy knew that he could drop to 7 or 8," said Lance Young, Gay's agent, during a telephone interview. "Because of the needs of the teams picking 4, 5 and 6, he knew he wasn't in their game plan, but obviously, he's disappointed he didn't go with the third pick."

Young said that Gay would use last night's draft as motivation.

"When all the lights are on you, it's an ego thing for the kids," Young said. "Whether he's the first player taken or the 15th, it's important that he get playing time next season. Rudy said everything happens for a reason. He said he'll definitely have motivation for the teams that didn't take him 1 to 7. He said he'll be ready when he plays those teams."

Gay's rookie season will presumably be spent in Memphis, where Battier was the only player to appear in all 81 games last regular season. Pau Gasol is the top player for the Grizzlies, where Jerry West runs the franchise and Mike Fratello is the coach.

Josh Boone, who went to South Carroll High and teamed with Gay at Cecil-Kirk and Connecticut, went to New Jersey with the 23rd selection, one pick after the Nets chose the Huskies' point guard, Marcus Williams. With Hilton Armstrong taken 12th by New Orleans, four Connecticut players were taken in the first round.

"Josh had a terrific workout for the Nets Monday," said Robert Fayne, his agent. "He's very excited to have a college teammate join him there."

Three men from different eras, Gene Shue in 1954, Marvin Webster in 1975 and Carmelo Anthony in 2003, remain the highest Baltimoreans taken in the draft. All were picked No. 3.

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

Draft recap

........................................ ..................................................School

No. Team ................ Player .................................... Country

1. Toronto ........ Andrea Bargnani ...............................Italy

2. Chicago ........LaMarcus Aldridge-a ...................... Texas

3. Charlotte .......... Adam Morrison ........................ Gonzaga

4. Portland ............. Tyrus Thomas-b .......................... LSU

5. Atlanta .................Shelden Williams ....................... Duke

6. Minnesota ............. Brandon Roy-c .................. Washington

7. Boston ................... Randy Foye-d .................... Villanova

8. Houston .................... Rudy Gay-e ....................... Connecticut

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