Five weeks into Rudy Gay's tenure with the Raptors, GM Bryan Colangelo already sees him as the face of the franchise, and he's likely to offer Gay an extension when he becomes eligible for one in July, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. The team will also pursue a "proven scoring post player" in return for Andrea Bargnani, Spears writes.
While Raptors management has been quick to embrace him, Gay believes he wasn't given a fair shake by new members of the front office in Memphis who arrived after Robert Pera bought the team at the start of the season. Gay had an inkling he'd be traded, since he felt the new management team, headed by CEO Jason Levien, didn't give him an opportunity to show he was worth his contract, which pays him $82.3MM over five years.
"With [new management], I don't think anybody's comfortable," the ex-Grizzlies forward said. "They're rookie owners. They come in there and they want it their own way, and you can't blame them for that. But it's a player's league."
Come July, Gay will have played three seasons of his five-year deal, making him extension-eligible. The Raptors would only be able to add two seasons to his contract, since veteran extensions are limited to four years including the remaining years on the existing deal. Still, an extension would likely remove the possibility, however remote, of Gay invoking his player option to decline the $19.3MM he's set to receive in 2014/15.
Veterans have been largely unwilling to sign extensions since they can usually sign for more money and more years in free agency, but Gay may be willing to make an exception, considering how highly the Raptors view his skills and how few teams may be willing to pay him more. Gay isn't thinking long-term, Spears writes, but that could change between now and July, and he seems to have a positive view of his new surroundings.
"Last time I left it up to my agent and it worked for me," he said. "I love the city. I think the team has a lot of potential. The organization is great. [Colangelo] is here and he is watching every step trying to make this team better."
As for a Bargnani trade, I'm not sure whether Toronto will be able to find a top-shelf post option in return for a player whose numbers have declined precipitously this year. The Raptors will also be hard-pressed to avoid the tax next season, so finding an upgrade who costs less or the same amount as Bargnani's $10.75MM salary figure for next season will be a challenge.