Sources: Raptors covet Rudy Gay
Updated: January 28, 2013, 7:57 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com
The Memphis Grizzlies continue to field calls from teams interested in Rudy Gay and are engaged in active trade discussions with the Toronto Raptors, sources with knowledge of the talks told ESPN.com.
Although the framework of a workable trade has not yet been established, sources told ESPN.com that Toronto -- known to be perhaps Gay's most determined suitor -- has continued to make a hard push for the swingman.
The Grizzlies, though, maintain that last week's luxury-tax-slashing trade with Cleveland means they no longer feel the same pressure to move Gay or another high-priced player before the NBA's Feb. 21 trade deadline.
New Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien told local reporters late last week that "we really like our team" and that it is "more likely than not that we do nothing" in terms of breaking up Memphis' marquee foursome of Gay, point guard Mike Conley, forward Zach Randolph and center Marc Gasol.
But sources say that the Raptors, undaunted by that stance, continue to pursue Gay and also covet Grizzlies forward Darrell Arthur. Toronto, sources said, has made veteran point guard Jose Calderon and blossoming young forward Ed Davis available as the two cornerstones of its offer.
Other teams remain engaged with the Grizzlies as well, as Memphis officials continue to weigh whether it is best to trade Gay or keep together the core of a team that has ranked among the top four in the Western Conference.
If talks with the Raptors do progress, according to sources, it's possible that a trade with Memphis could expand to include other teams and players. NBA front-office sources have maintained for weeks that Calderon (who has an expiring contract), fellow Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (only $1 million in guaranteed salary next season) and former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani all are available.
The Boston Celtics, sources say, are another team that has registered exploratory interest in Gay. But making a trade for Gay would require Boston to part with Paul Pierce -- a step that Celtics management may not be ready to take, especially since Gay has two years left on his contract valued at more than $35 million.
Sources say that the Grizzlies, meanwhile, know Pierce would likely have strong reservations about leaving Boston for Memphis and aren't sure he could address the various priorities they've identified as musts in a Gay trade, such as adding depth and youth to the roster as well as balancing out a top-heavy payroll.
Sources told ESPN.com on Sunday night, in the wake of Rajon Rondo's season-ending knee injury, that Boston was more likely to pursue Lowry and his cap-friendly contract.
ESPN.com reported Friday that there is no shortage of teams convinced that the Grizzlies might still opt to move Gay before the trade deadline, especially in the wake of their recent trade with Cleveland that shed more than $6 million in salary and took the Grizzlies under the luxury-tax threshold.
But Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins and various players have publicly lobbied for the right to play out this season with no dramatic changes to the roster, now that Memphis will not have a luxury-tax bill at season's end.
Taking the long-term view, however, Memphis' management team under new owner Robert Pera is said to be concerned about its limited ability to keep improving the roster and address obvious concerns regarding the Grizzlies' depth and perimeter shooting. The bulk of Memphis' payroll is tied up in four players: Gay, Conley, Randolph and Gasol.
To convince Cleveland to take back reserves Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby in Tuesday's trade, Memphis was forced to surrender a protected future first-round pick.
The Grizzlies, sources said, were concerned about their lack of future first-round picks before that trade and are thus believed to be pursuing picks as part of any in-season deal involving Gay.
The Grizzlies could also elect to resist in-season trades and then try to move Gay or Randolph in connection with the draft in June or during free agency in July.