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Commentary: Rudy Gay is no All-Star, but he's still a vital part of the Spurs' core

Silver and Black made keeping veteran forward in San Antonio one of their top priorities of the offseason.

SAN ANTONIO — Veteran forward Rudy Gay likes playing for the Spurs and coach Gregg Popovich likes having Gay on the team.

That’s why it was no surprise Sunday when Gay and the Silver and Black agreed to terms on a two-year contract that could pay him up to $32 million, according to league sources. Since the deal reportedly has no options – for Gay or the franchise – the contract ensures that Gay, who turns 33 on Aug. 17, will play in San Antonio for at least the next two years.

As expected, the team’s front office took care of in-house business quickly. The NBA’s free agency period for the 2019-20 season started Sunday at 5 p.m., San Antonio time, but no free agents, for the most part, can sign new deals before noon on Saturday (July 6).  

The Spurs also reached an agreement Sunday to sign journeyman small forward DeMarre Carroll to a two-year contract worth about $12 million, according to multiple reports. Carroll, who has played the past two seasons with the Brooklyn Nets, will fill the 15th and final guaranteed spot on the San Antonio roster.

For all intents and purposes, the Silver and Black’s free agency period is over – unless they roll the dice and clear cap money with a big trade that would give them the latitude to go after a veteran power forward such as Indiana’s Bojan Bogdanovic. But such a move is highly unlikely.

The Spurs made keeping Gay, who has played in the NBA for 13 seasons, a top priority of their offseason. Gay opted out of the last year of his contract with Sacramento in 2017 to sign with San Antonio as a free agent.

Gay averaged 13.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 26.7 minutes last season. He also shot a career-best 50.4 percent from the field, 40.2 percent from the three-point line and 81.6 at the free-throw line.

Gay started in 51 of the 69 games in which he played, and became a steadying influence in the locker room. He was a finalist for this season’s NBA Twyman-Strokes Award, which is awarded to the league’s “ideal teammate” who exemplifies “selfless play, commitment, and dedication to his team.”

Credit: Photo by Antonio Morano bit.ly/XR79FT / Special to KENS5.com
Spurs forward Rudy Gay, who was selected by Houston with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft, signed with San Antonio as a free agent in July 2017.

Gay finished the Spurs’ first-round playoff series against Denver with two strong games. San Antonio, which advanced to the playoffs as a No. 7 seed after finishing 48-34, took the Nuggets to seven games before falling in the opening round of the postseason for the second year in a row.

Popovich said after the season that he hoped the team would re-sign Gay, a Connecticut alum who was selected by Houston with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.

“Rudy is a scorer,” Popovich said. “He’s somebody who changes games. He’s a great teammate. He’s got a great personality, great sense of humor, and he’s gotten better rebounding-wise and defensively, which never was really his forte. But he understands the importance of it and he’s just getting better every year, so he’s somebody that we’re hoping to figure out a way to keep him here.”

While Gay never has been an All-Star during his 13-year career, he’s still pretty doggone good. One of the few players on the 2018-19 team who could create his own shot, Gay is a vital part of the Spurs’ core.

With point guard Dejounte Murray returning from a knee injury and LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan back to carry the scoring load, Gay gives San Antonio another viable offensive option.

No longer an elite team, the Spurs face the challenge of trying to remain relevant in the NBA’s ultra-competitive Western Conference. That’s a mighty challenge, but there’s nothing here that says they can’t win at least 50 games and maybe take a playoff series, or two, this season.

At the very least, having Rudy Gay back certainly will enhance the Silver and Black’s chances of staying in the playoff hunt.

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