Okay, before I wake up tomorrow morning with the entire OKC fan base chanting “Monster, Monster” in my front lawn with pitchforks and torches… hear me out. Last year when Woj dropped the Rudy Gay to OKC bomb, I was just like everyone else, “Presti WHY!?” The Rudy rumblings have been on repeat for years, “bad teammate,” “team cancer,” “never saw a shot he didn’t like,” “Calling Sacramento basketball hell,” “teams get better once he leaves,” but the truth is, and Sam Presti saw it too—He’s a “middle class” Kevin Durant.
I don’t think Gay deserves the title of “poor man’s” anything. For their careers, Rudy shot 3% less than Durant from both the field and three-point percentage, scored 10 less points, and rebounded at almost the same clip—one less per game. He patches the July 4th hole in the thunder’s roster, and with the elevation of Westbrook, I think OKC is back to a 50+ wins status. If Russ and Durant were top two seed status, year after year, is elevated Russ and OKC Rudy top 3-4 status? I went on Reddit the day it was announced that Rudy would opt out of his 14.2-million-dollar player option because I wanted to see what the Kings fans were saying. I was blown away with the “Rudy Love.” There were a lot of comments like, “One of my favorite players of all time. I hope he goes to a contender and gets a ring,” or “Aw man, I’m definitely going to miss Rudy. Hopefully he can bounce back from the injury and play for a playoff team.” Obviously, the small sample size of Reddit users isn’t anything to hang your hat on to build the case for Rudy in OKC, but I was expecting overwhelming relief from the fan base—especially after everything I have heard over the years. Could he be loved in Oklahoma City? It’s not like we haven’t fallen for a “critiqued” star before… cough, Dion.
But what about the “career ending” injury… I don’t care. Presi and his team will evaluate his health and recovery, and decide whether or not to pursue accordingly—except that time we lost on Tyson Chandler. Honestly, I think it helps the Thunder, because it pulls his price tag down. If Presti could find a way to move Kanter at the deadline and swap picks with someone picking in the 14-18 range, I think we could create enough room to bring in Gay and a backup point guard [like Sergio Rodriquez—but I’ll save that for another post] and still be at or below the cap. Hopefully we can use the wiggle room between the Salary cap and the tax line to resign Andre Roberson—but I’m fearful someone is going to offer him 16 million per year. I’m no cap expert by any means so everything detailed above could be pure rot, but I’ll leave that to the cap guru in the OKC fan base—John Hamm. Either way, if Sam Presti wants Rudy Gay in thunder blue next season, I believe he would find a way to execute it.
Take a moment to picture what could be—my favorite part. Can’t you see it? This is where it gets fun, and I get excited. Imagine a world where Russ and Rudy rule the NBA, and become the most criticized “relevant” team in the league by national media members, Tom Haberstroh, Zach Lowe, etc… Man, can you think of anything the “NBA nerds” that voted for Kawhi, and picked apart Westbrook’s triple double validity this year would hate more—especially if the Thunder break 50 wins? As long as Westbrook is the focal point to any offense those guys are going to find ways to criticize most of it, because of his style of play. Russell Westbrook’s OKC will never move the ball like the Spurs or Warriors, and if that is your bar of expectation, you’re in for a long six-year ride with Russ’s extension coming up.
If 2016-17 was “The Year of Russ,” I think next season could be the year of “Russ and Rudy—the misfits” The Ringer will have a field day–enough content to sink a ship. Imagine if OKC could crack a top 3 seed in the West w/ Rudy Gay and Russell Westbrook. Isn’t that the most Brodie thing you could imagine? Twitter would explode, and I think OKC land, as much as they don’t want to admit it now, would love that duo—alongside Oladipo, Roberson, and Adams. Also, a large plus, is this scenario provides a way to ensure that buzz continues to circulate around the Thunder organization. Being in a 3nd smallest market requires one thing, relevancy. Any publicity is good publicity, right? I’m picturing an NBA landscape where Shea Serrano tweets out in all caps, “RUSS AND RUDY, SHOOT YOUR SHOT,” on an almost daily basis. He may have to go back and revise his new book to include the most “shooters shoot” duo in the modern NBA. Remember guys, basketball is supposed to be fun.
The whole “ring culture” that has been created once enslaved me, but it doesn’t any more. Last year’s season was almost my favorite season of OKC basketball, and we lost in the first round of the playoffs. Rudy Gay reminds me a lot about the way the NBA viewed and still views Dion Waiters. Criticized heavily around the league, but yet, once in OKC for a season and a half, OKC’s fan base has created this irrational “Waiters Island” euphoric milieu. This gives me hope, because Rudy has the ability to replace the irrational love for Dion Waiters in the hearts of all Thunder fans. Rudy Island is waiting… OKC just needs to open up their minds and hearts. Could Presti pull the trigger and ignite the Russ and Rudy show!? In the words of Russell… Why Not?