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Jazz's Rudy 'Ocho' Gay practices fully for first time, nears return to court

Utah Jazz's Joe Ingles, left, looks on as Rudy Gay shoots during the Utah Jazz shoot around practice on Oct. 26 in Salt Lake City. On Monday, Rudy Gay was a full participant in practice for the first time since singing with the team in August.

Utah Jazz's Joe Ingles, left, looks on as Rudy Gay shoots during the Utah Jazz shoot around practice on Oct. 26 in Salt Lake City. On Monday, Rudy Gay was a full participant in practice for the first time since singing with the team in August. (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — The "Ocho" nickname has apparently stuck.

Rudy Gay sported a new practice jersey Monday; the uniform was the same except it had "Ocho" written out below the No. 8. (Yes, ocho is the Spanish word for eight — who said nicknames had to be complicated?)

It probably wasn't a coincidence the jersey popped up on the same day Gay made his most significant step toward making his Jazz debut. For the first time as a member of the team, Gay went through a full practice.

Gay's been recovering from offseason surgery on his right heel in order to fix an injury that has nagged him for nearly five years.

"I feel good, my body feels good," Gay said. "I think me being on the court can help this team."

The Jazz are certainly in need of some help; they've lost four of their last five games and their defense has been diced up. Gay was considered one of the league's best perimeter defenders last season, something Utah surely needs.

Add in the fact that he's a serviceable shooter, can handle the ball, and can play some small-ball center if Quin Snyder wants to go that route, and he's someone that can plug a lot of holes.

"I've always been the type of person that will do whatever a team needs," Gay said. "It's my 16th year. That's the only way you stay here — do what the team needs."

So what did Snyder have Gay do at practice?

"Play basketball," Snyder responded.

It sounded sarcastic — and it probably was to a certain extent — but there were some layers of seriousness. For weeks, Gay has been restricted in what he could do at practice — mainly individual and small group drills. On Monday, he was playing basketball with the team.

"It's a serious answer because I think he's a basketball player," said Snyder, who acknowledged Gay's added enthusiasm on Monday. "So there's a lot of things he's capable of doing. Some are more frequent than others. He's defending, he's taking shots, bringing the ball up the court and making plays."

It remains to be seen when Gay can make his Jazz debut. While his status is starting to get clearer, the Jazz still don't have a target date.

"They (the medical staff) will let him know when he's ready," Snyder said. "But he's working."

As of Tuesday, Gay hadn't been given any type of timeline for his return to game action. The goal remains for him to be fully over the surgery so as not to risk it sidelining him again.

"We are going to make sure that everything's right," he said.

That said, he admitted Monday his biggest obstacle to returning to play currently is his conditioning.

He working on that, too.

Gay practiced with the Salt Lake City Stars Sunday to help get his wind back. He said his body recovered well between the two training sessions — a good sign for sure — though he did grumble about Utah's famed altitude.

"It was good just to get up and down and play some games and just be against some different competition," Gay said of the practice with the Utah G League team. "It's good to be out there. I mean, it's a gradual thing."

A gradual thing that is nearing its end.

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