By Michael Tillery

Memphis, because they are so young, are going through a learning process that most cats should have to go through just to get that true appreciation for the game. The whole squad looks like they just stepped out of an AAU program. The talent is there, but these young cats have so much to learn. Mark Iavaroni, who was honored at halftime for being a member of the 1983 NBA Championship team, seems to dig the challenge. “I look over at Maurice Cheeks and see someone who has worked hard to get where he’s at. It seems to have helped him tremendously. The Sixers are playing good ball. I get a sense of pride seeing my former teammate over there. I have to continue to work hard and learn. Cheeks made me earn my stripes in Philly. He’s a friend first. I earned this by sitting in the background for ten years. I’ll keep working and working with my players until we get it right.”

One of those young players is the crazy talented Rudy Gay. Dude is the next NBA bomb ready to explode.

With his deft combination of skill and athleticism, he has the game legacy in front of him.

Will he challenge himself personally and professionally to get to the next level?
MT: Rudy you’ve been the most talented player on most likely every team you’ve played on. You have everything it takes to be a superstar. Obviously your team comes first, but how are you gonna get there? What sacrifices are you prepared to make to become the player everyone expects you to be? Where do you see yourself with say 5 years NBA experience?

RG: Straight up hard work. I have to work hard. We’re a young team. We all have to get better. Hakim (Warrick) has to get better, Kyle (Lowry) has to get better, Mike Conley has to get better. When you do what it takes to get better, then your team will get better. In five years? I should be an all star year in and year out. Like T-Mac, KG and LeBron–everybody. That’s how I want to be and I’m not going to settle for less either.

MT: What did you learn the most playing in the Nubian Youth Church League (league in MD growing up)?

RG: (laughs) When I played in Cecil (Cecil/Kirk AAU out of Bmore), that’s when I really got tough and learned the game. My coach Anthony Lewis taught me this game. He told me to use my height. When the mechanics aren’t there–and all else fails–just use my quickness and all my other physical attributes to gain an advantage.

MT: You had a real nice dunk that I had the opportunity to describe for the listeners of 100.3, The Beat with Izzo, during the subsequent timeout. Sick dunk on Sammy (Dalembert). I spoke with Dwight Howard and he said he would have been hot if they let you dunk on a 12 foot rim (because he was denied last year), but since the NBA scratched that, what was the craziest request you got on Youtube this week?

RG: Someone wanted me to do a handstand into a dunk. I can’t even do a handstand period.

MT: There’s a talented illustrator, Joel Kimmel, who does stuff on SLAM. He drew up this dunk where you throw the rock in front of you…as it bounces you catch it in your shirt as you rise…with your left hand slap the ball around your back and as the ball comes out you put it between your legs and throw it down. That possible?

The look on Rudy’s face after I explain each step was priceless.

RG: (Laughing) I don’t know man, I want to see him do it. That could be hot.

MT: What kind of impression are you trying to make at the dunk contest?

RG: I want to be on like Vince. I want people to be like, “Dag, that was crazy! I’ve never seen that before!” When Iguodala did that dunk and people went crazy…yeah like that.

MT: How about the Rookie/Sophomore Game?

RG: I want to hit my teammates over the head. They ain’t been a problem or like that. Last year was my first year, but this year I just want to hit ’em over the head with it.

MT: There’s this alarming stat that says that 80% of all NBA players are broke 5 years after retirement. What have you learned about handling finances and what advice would you give kids on the come up?

RG: Everything that glitters ain’t gold. It’s funny I say that because everybody wants this or that. Everybody thinks getting in the league is jewelry–cars and stuff like that. Cars get old. Jewelry goes out of style. I just say be smart. Put your money into something that can grow for you. I’ve been pretty smart about my money. I don’t have too many cars. No rims on my cars–nothing like that. I take care of my family. If you do take care of your family, take care of them so they can work for it.

MT: What’s the livest thing about Memphis?

RG: The food. You can get ribs on every corner.

MT: Show and prove down there.

RG: Oh I’m planning to, just watch.