Despite a hefty contract, the Toronto Raptors hope the addition of Rudy Gay will help them turn around their season and make a serious push for the playoffs.
Gay will debut with his new team Friday night when the Raptors look to avoid a fourth straight loss while trying to continue their recent home success against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Toronto (16-30) acquired Gay and little-used center Hamed Haddadi on Wednesday for veteran guard Jose Calderon, forward Ed Davis and a 2013 second-round draft pick. The Grizzlies then sent Calderon to Detroit for forwards Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye.
"Players like this don't come along that often in terms of their availability," Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said. "This was a very unique circumstance. We feel like we took advantage of it.
In his seventh season, Gay averaged a team-leading 17.2 points - his lowest in the last six - while shooting a career-low 40.8 percent and 5.9 rebounds for Memphis. Teamed with good friend Kyle Lowry to form a talented backcourt in Toronto, Colangelo believes Gay could be the piece needed to propel the club into playoff position.
A loser in eight of 10, Toronto is 11th in Eastern Conference and 6 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot.
"This is the type of deal we have been looking for to take our team another step forward," Colangelo said. "Rudy Gay is a dynamic wing that elevates our talent level significantly."
The trade was a money-saving move for Memphis - Gay brings to Toronto a five-year, $82 million contract he signed in July 2010. He's due $16.5 million this season and $37 million over the next two.
Calderon, who broke in with the Raptors in 2005, averaged 11.1 points and a team-leading 7.4 assists. Davis, the 13th overall pick in 2010, has averaged a career-high 9.7 points while pulling down 6.7 rebounds.
"We want to thank Jose and Ed for their dedication and service to our organization," Colangelo said. "Both individuals are wonderful young men beyond just talented basketball players."
The addition of Gay could also present Toronto coach Dwane Casey with a quandary on the wing where Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Alan Anderson, Landry Fields and Terrence Ross are all the same type of player. DeRozan scored 23 while Anderson added 15 and Lowry totaled 14, 10 rebounds and five assists in Wednesday's 93-92 loss at Atlanta.
Averaging 20.3 points in the last four contests, the southern California native DeRozan scored 24 in a 102-83 loss at Los Angeles on Dec. 9. The Raptors have averaged 88.0 points and shot 37.9 percent while losing three straight to the Clippers (34-13) - all at the Staples Center.
Los Angeles, however, hopes to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat in Toronto. After losing their previous two by a combined 46 points, the Clippers were more competitive during a 98-93 loss at the Air Canada Centre on Feb. 13, 2011.
Looking for a third consecutive victory after dropping four straight, the Clippers snapped a three-game road slide with a 96-90 win at Minnesota on Wednesday. Blake Griffin had 26 points with 13 rebounds while DeAndre Jordan added 16 with 12 boards and Eric Bledsoe had 10, a season-high 10 assists and six steals to open a season-high eight-game trip on a positive note.
"We go into every road trip with the goal to win them all," Griffin told the Clippers' official website. "And you can't win them all without winning the first one."
Griffin has averaged 23.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in the last six games. Picking up the slack while Chris Paul remains out with a bruised kneecap, Griffin averaged 6.8 assists in the previous five before being held without one Wednesday.
He's averaging 20.0 points, 12.3 boards and 3.5 assists in four career games versus Toronto.
Along with Paul being out, the Clippers also won't have Matt Barnes on Friday. The league suspended Barnes one game for striking Minnesota's Greg Stiemsma in the neck in the second quarter Wednesday.