Rudy Gay is a certain kind of hero

Rudy Gay hits one of his two game-winners since coming to Toronto.

The Raptors are 5-2 since Rudy Gay came to town, having beaten the Clippers, Pacers, Nuggets and Knicks. There is real reason for optimism — Toronto usually plays hard, plays together and play an athletic, uptempo style that’s easy on the eyes.

To what degree is Rudy Gay responsible for this success? Well, he’s hit two game-winners, including an ice-cold one-dribble pull-up over Corey Brewer on Tuesday night.

But the Raptors are also shooting very well from 3, something Rudy Gay has not directly contributed to because he’s shooting 38 percent from the field and just 18 percent from 3.

The starters’ defense is strong; you can see how such rangy and quick players could smother the court. It’s especially effective compared to the second unit which lost Ed Davis and added John Lucas III in place of Kyle Lowry.

It’s just hard to say exactly how much help Gay is providing. He’s shooting a ton and not very accurately. But with his great size and skill, he can get off a reasonably decent shot in a one-on-one situation, and that talent has made him into the closer that Toronto believes it needs. But would the Raptors be in those tough end of game situations if Gay made more shots during the other 47 minutes?

Those one-on-one pullups are shot that no player makes consistently, but, just as he did in Memphis, Gay takes them with alarming frequency throughout the game. And judging by how well Gay shoots the rest of the game, we shouldn’t expect him to come through in the clutch even half of the time.

I count myself among the many who hoped Rudy Gay could blossom in Toronto. Freed from playing alongside two other

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HoopSpeak Network

Three more thoughts on the Rudy Gay trade

With so many reaction pieces flying around about the Rudy Gay trade to the Raptors, it’s easy to think everything has been covered. But here are some thoughts, one for each team involved, that were left undiscussed.

1. The Pistons didn’t just dump salary, they got better

Detroit is just 17-29 and traded their last player synonymous with winning (Tayshaun Prince) in the deal so I get why it’s easy to write this team off. But despite that poor record, the sorry state of the Eastern Conference has the Pistons ‘only’ 5 ½ games behind the Rondo-less Celtics with just under half the season remaining.

With Calderon in the fold, I don’t think it’s all that insane to suggest this Pistons team — especially if aided by another move that breaks up the sieve-like frontcourt of Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe — could make a run at a playoff spot. Though their new Spaniard’s defensive issues will be more apparent without active bigs like Amir Johnson and Ed Davis behind him, Calderon’s presence fixes a lot of issues dogging the team, most notably the uninspiring play of Rodney Stuckey.

All season long, the struggling guard has been like a square peg trying to be jammed in a round hole. To start the year, Stuckey was paired with with second-year guard Brandon Knight (another player who thrives off dribble penetration) and Prince (who posted up more than spotted up). Being forced to play off the ball with two non-shooting bigs in the frontcourt essentially sealed Stuckey’s fate before he played a minute.

Things got slightly better when he was moved to the bench with the exciting second unit I profiled on Grantland. There Stuckey was still playing second-fiddle to Will Bynum, but at the very least he had space to

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Chris Paul’s useful technical foul

For a notorious control freak, Chris Paul has looked perilously close to losing command of his emotions in two playoff losses to the Memphis Grizzlies. Last night, Paul threw himself into near-hysterics over an official’s failure to give him a call on an obvious flop.

At that point in the 3rd quarter, the Grizzlies were comprehensively demolishing the Clippers. After battering the Clippers in the paint throughout the game, the Grizzlies led 73-51. Then, in the span of 80 seconds of game time that felt like about 10 minutes in real time, Paul, Caron Butler and Mo Williams were each whistled for a technical foul, every one for complaining to the officials.

Fast forward to 6:13 seconds left in the game (:55 left), and the Grizzlies are clinging to a six-point lead. Bet the Clips wish they could have those technical freethrows back, right?

You know what would have helped LA’s comeback? Not getting five technicals.

— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) May 10, 2012

Mr. Hollinger’s point is well taken, it’s stupid to give up free points of any kind. This is especially true when they come, essentially, from being a bunch of complainers.

But I’m not so sure the Clippers would have even been in this one without that weird burst of technicals in the third quarter.

Paul’s tantrum reminded me of another great athlete who used his mind as much as his physical ability to upend his opponents: John McEnroe.

McEnroe, along with a few others of his generation, was famous for arguing calls at great length, earning single point penalties and other minor infractions (though sometimes things escalated), in an effort not to win that specific point, but to change the emotional atmosphere of the match.

He would stalk the baseline, screaming at his opponent, the

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Don’t Give Up On OJ Mayo

OJ Mayo is having a rough season. For the last month, he’s been coming off the bench in favor of the emergent Xavier Henry, and seems to have slipped from franchise staple to expendable asset in the eyes of fans and the franchise. While teammates Rudy Gay (24) and Mike Conley (23) have received expensive contracts, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that Mayo (23) will be offered an extension after he becomes a restricted free agent in 2012. If the Grizzlies do decide to spend on their own again soon, Chris Wallace will target Pau Gasol’s furry little brother first.  But while a decrease in playing time and importance within one’s franchise is not usually a positive, I’m holding out hope that Mayo is will continue to find increased relevance in his new role.

This jumper will look even prettier in another uniform

Maybe I’m blinded by the fact I’ve been hearing about OJ since he was hitting step-back jumpers eighth grade, but every time I see him play, I find myself digging his game. The vapors of that middle school legend might be confounding my critical evaluation, but damn if Mayo doesn’t play like a starter for a good stretch every time I watch him (like on Monday when he put 27 on the Spurs in his only start since being benched in November). Yet, I also understand why he may not mesh along side with the diminutive Mike Conley.

Indeed, Mayo’s skill set is a catalog of contradictions:

He’s got a high basketball IQ but makes poor decisions distributing the ball. He’s got clever scoring instincts, but can have difficulty creating his own shot. He’s strong and has good hands as a defender, but has only average wingspan and is undersized when defending shooting guards. He’s still quite young,

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