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Local NBA veteran Rudy Gay sees playgrounds as a positive outlet for Baltimore kids

Rudy Gay found a new NBA home this offseason, opting out of his contract with the Sacramento Kings to sign a two-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs in free agency.

But as the former Archbishop Spalding player continues to recover from a torn Achilles tendon and aims to win a championship, he hasn’t forgotten about his childhood home and Baltimore.

In a recent interview with ESPN.com, Gay emphasized his ties to the area and his appreciation for helping kids find outlets to avoid violent and troublesome lifestyles.

Building playgrounds is one of the ideas the NBA veteran, entering his 12th season, has developed.

“I have a charity, but I’ve always been very direct in what I wanted to give back to,” Gay told ESPN.com. “You know how some people [want to take care of] the Boys & Girls Club or this or that? Well, that’s cool. That’s cool. But personally, I’d like to see this computer lab is getting done, or these kids now have [what they need].”

After the death of Freddy Gray and the civil unrest in the city during the spring of 2015, officials started initiatives to revamp areas for children to play. Gay wanted to help with that.

So, he said he’s orchestrated the creation of some playgrounds around the city, often having kids help volunteer with compensation.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of drug dealing. There’s a lot of killing. There’s a lot of gangs in Baltimore,” Gay said. “That all stems from a sense of hopelessness and a sense of struggling. If I can give kids an actual face and a positive way to make money, that keeps them off the streets.”

Gay, who has also been involved with community service when playing for the Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors, plans to continue his efforts by hosting a basketball tournament in August.

Plus, he’s eager to play this season under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who often speaks about current events and social activism.

“It’s just you have to start from the beginning in Baltimore,” Gay said. “That’s anywhere. Anywhere there’s trouble, you’ve got to start from the beginning, and I saw that. The kids didn’t even have a safe place to play. I saw that and just thought I could at least do that for now. But there’s a lot more work to be done in that city.”

ccaplan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/CallieCaplan

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