San Antonio Spurs: Did Rudy Gay put on some muscle during the hiatus?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 23: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs in action against Dennis Smith Jr. #5 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on November 23, 2019 in New York City. The Spurs defeated the Knicks 111-104. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph , user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 23: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs in action against Dennis Smith Jr. #5 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on November 23, 2019 in New York City. The Spurs defeated the Knicks 111-104. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph , user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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A recent photo of Rudy Gay in the San Antonio Spurs’ practice facility leads us to believe the veteran used the hiatus to add some muscle mass.

It’s been a rough year for San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay, but there’ve been some gems along the way. The 14-year NBA veteran had the most efficient season of his career in 2018-19, posting a true-shooting of 58.3 percent while creeping up on the illustrious 50/40/90 club. This year has been more difficult for Gay, who had a quick and unexpected decline.

However, Gay has been unlocked in some new ways under head coach Gregg Popovich this year. He spent six percent of his playing time as a small-ball center, which breathed some new life into the Spurs’ lineup. He began to come into his own later in the season and flashed some of that consistency the team needed from him to claw back into the playoff picture.

There’s a good chance we’ll see a bit of small-ball Rudy again when the NBA season resumes later this month. With practice facilities opening back up, the Spurs posted some pictures that led me to believe Rudy put on some additional muscle during his time off. Below, you’ll see two photos: One of Rudy in February and another now. Maybe it’s the angle, but it looks me like Rudy’s arms and shoulders are much more strong than they were before the break.

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117 days away from the NBA court is plenty of time to add on some extra brawn and quite frankly, the Spurs could use it. With former All-NBA big LaMarcus Aldridge set to miss the remainder of the season as he rehabs from shoulder surgery, Popovich will need all hands on deck — Especially from his forwards and centers.

As a veteran leader and a selfless player, Gay, who’s on the first year of a two-year, $32 million deal to stay in San Antonio, will need to play a different kind of role than he’s used to. On the defensive end, they’ll need him to be especially active, playing weak-side defense to swat shots and chasing down shooters on the perimeter after sagging off to play help defense.

It’s not going to be an easy chore, but Gay is certainly capable of it. Few players have bought into the San Antonio Spurs’ culture and system like Gay has. Rudy sacrificed a ball-stopping style of play that made him a great NBA scorer throughout his career to be part of something bigger. Though it hasn’t been an easy season for him or his team as a whole, this isn’t entirely on Rudy, who is still a net-positive for San Antonio while going hard on the glass and complimenting his long-time friend, DeMar DeRozan as a secondary scorer.

Next. Three players whose roles should increase in return

If Rudy enters this eight-game span with his body and mind in peak condition, he could give the Spurs a chance to actually fight for that eighth seed.

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