MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Forbes magazine recently listed Memphis as the second-most miserable city in the U.S. So you can understand why pending restricted free agent Rudy Gay had to pause when asked if he wants to re-sign with the Grizzlies.
"I wouldn't mind it," he said. "I wouldn't mind staying here."
That kind of apathy should be alarming for a franchise that seems to finally have put together some legitimate talent on the basketball court. But even owner Michael Heisley sounded just as noncommittal when asked about Gay. Not because the Grizzlies don't want the former UConn star, but because Heisley doesn't see it as possible without support from the locals, who just don't seem as interested in the NBA team as they are in the university's hoop group.
Memphis also is second-worst in the NBA in attendance at 13,305 fans per game. On Friday, there were 12,236 fans at the FedEx Forum to see the Knicks fall to the Grizzlies, 119-112.
"People say are you going to pay Rudy Gay? My answer to them is simply, 'Are you going to come to the games?"' Heisley told the Memphis Commercial Appeal this week. "If I can't get people to come to the games, I can't pay anybody."
Zach Randolph led Memphis (35-31) with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Bill Walker scored 21 points and Toney Douglas had 19 for the Knicks (22-43), who rallied from a 29-point deficit to get within five in the final minute.
Gay, 23, who had 20 points and six rebounds in 41 minutes, could be among several options for the Knicks as they go shopping to rebuild the team in free agency this summer. He has a $4.4-million qualifying offer but likely will look for a lot more money. The Grizzlies, who are known for running the franchise on a shoestring budget, can match any offer sheet Gay accepts from another team. But if the number is high enough, would they?
"Do I think they're going to make a commitment to me? To some extent, I do," Gay said. "But it's a business . . . so it really doesn't matter to me which way it goes."
Randolph shook his head when he saw the New York media surrounding Gay at the morning shoot-around. "Y'all trying to take him away from us?" he said with a grin. But everyone here knows the situation. Gay, who has played his first four NBA seasons with the Grizzlies, entered Friday night's game averaging 20.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
"I think it's a start," Gay said of his performance. "I don't think I've maxed out at all."
Athletic with long arms, the 6-8 Gay could be a good fit as a slasher and fast-break finisher in Mike D'Antoni's system. But Gay seemed to shrug at that suggestion. Systems don't really matter much to him.
"I've been through four coaches already," he said, "so I think I pretty much fit in anywhere."