Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay will pass up free agency and exercise the $19.3 million player option in his contract for next season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The deal ensures Gay will stick with the team at least through 2014-15, though Wojnarowski says negotiations on a long-term deal will continue later this summer.
Gay, 27, was acquired by the Kings in a midseason trade after proving unable to fit with the Toronto Raptors. A high-volume scorer who earned a massive contract in 2010 as one of the league's top young wings, Gay has since seen his progress stall and his reputation fall apart.
Considered overpaid and inefficient by the middle of last season, Gay actually showed some serious signs of life after joining the Kings in early December. No longer burdened with having to carry the offense on a team also featuring DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, he quickly adjusted to filling a much more useful role.
Over 55 games with Sacramento last season, Gay averaged 20.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, showing more versatility than he had in years.
And more importantly, Gay showed a much more efficient scoring game, fostered by a greater willingness to attack the rim. Gay shot 48 percent in his time with Sacramento last season, way up from the 41 percent he shot during his stint in Toronto.
Gay also had more assists than turnovers, something he's only done twice over a full season, and averaged over five free throws per contest, a new career-high. All around, it's clear the different role had a positive effect on the way Gay performed.
For all those reasons, and some others related to long-term cap space, Gay returning to Sacramento on his player option is undoubtedly good news for the Kings. While the salary might be a tad exorbitant, it also allows the Kings to retain a high-quality player without a long-term commitment, freeing up opportunities in the future to partner Cousins with better players.
Then again, Wojnarowski says the Kings consider Gay "a cornerstone of the franchise's future," and plan to negotiate a long-term deal with him later this summer. It's unclear what the terms of that contract would be, but Gay would obviously take a significant pay cut from the max-level salary he's receiving right now.
Either way, the Kings appear to be getting some good news Sunday, as Gay is in for 2014-15. With that certainty and stability in place, the team can turn its attention elsewhere while preparing to potentially offer Gay a long-term deal. And if that doesn't work out, Sacramento should have a ton of cap space in the summer of 2015 when Gay walks.