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San Antonio Spurs: Rediscovering the eminence of Rudy Gay

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 19: Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs shoot over Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans during a game at the Smoothie King Center on November 19, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 19: Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs shoot over Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans during a game at the Smoothie King Center on November 19, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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In his best playing shape since January of 2017, Rudy Gay could be the catalyst that lifts the San Antonio Spurs into true playoff contention.

The road to full recovery has been lengthy and strenuous process, but 32-year-old small forward Rudy Gay looks to be at his most explosive since tearing his achilles just under two years ago. Not only does an injury of that magnitude push a player past his physical limits, but it puts them under intense mental and emotional stress because of the colossal undertaking of rehabilitation.

From as early as preseason, Gay has looked like a completely revitalized athlete compared to his form  in the 2017-18 season. In his second season with the San Antonio Spurs, Gay has seen an uptick in points, rebounds and assists per game while increasing his effective field goal percentage by 6.1 percent. If the season were to end today, Gay would have posted the largest single increase in EFG of his career.

Rudy, who led the league for most of the season thus far, ranks second in three-point percentage, hitting 49.2 percent of his treys. For reference, the only player in the NBA hitting a higher percentage of his threes is Stephen Curry — the greatest shooter the game has ever seen.

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For as exceptional as he’s been as a scorer, Gay has been a major asset defensively due to his massive wingspan and light-footedness. During a time in which the ability to switch onto ball handlers or big men is so important for small forwards, Rudy manages to keep up with players of all shapes and sizes. Of the team’s most frequent starters, Gay is posting the highest net rating with -2.6.

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Gay is regarded with a lot of respect by his peers and the basketball community because of who he is both as a baller and an individual. Since his early days in Memphis, Gay has been humble, fierce and driven in his approach to the game. He never shies away from a challenge and always gives his best effort. Those values have quickly become intertwined with the powerful messages instilled in the San Antonio Spurs locker room.

Over the course of the last week, Gay had his two best games of the season including a tie of a career-best effort.

In the first match of the Spurs’ back-to-back set with the Los Angeles Lakers, Gay made 12-of-21 field goal attempts for 31 points along with seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.

After a posting a modest statline during San Antonio’s fourth quarter takeover against LA, Gay stunned the Utah Jazz in the second outing of a six-game homestand. He corralled a career-high tying 15 rebounds and assisted on two buckets in the contest. His effort on the defensive end of the floor earned him a steal and a block in the contest as well.

This can be a turning point for the career of Rudy Gay. Despite the milage he’s earned over a long span of time, he’s still got plenty of gas left in the tank. Gay has become a fan favorite by a fanbase that can oftentimes be critical of the players they’re so devoted to. Having a connection with the fans in such a short amount of time is a testament to what he means to the Spurs.

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If things continue the way they have since he joined the team in the Summer of 2017, Rudy will have a home in San Antonio for as long as he’s willing and able to contribute.

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