Yesterday, Rudy Fernandez’s agent Andy Miller announced to the world that his client would not be reporting to training camp with the Trail Blazers. A loaded and news worthy statement indeed, but in this era of contract holdouts and what not we should come accostumed to such things. It gets better. Miller continued on to say Fernandez was done with the NBA, didn’t want a trade and was homesick, just wanted to play in Europe and would sit out the next 2 years to do so.
Does any of this make any sense to anyone? What did Andy Miller accomplish by coming out with all this? From Day 1, the Blazers have shown patience with Rudy because they did not want to make a trade just to make a trade. Blazer GM Rich Cho looks to have the patience of someone much older than him. Going off on Portland isn’t going to make them trade Rudy any faster. Not only that, but why hurt an already diminished trade market? You think a GM wants to deal with this kind of headache? You think teams are going to make a better offer for Rudy now or a worse offer. If you answered the latter you won, because now they can justify it by saying ‘this guy’s difficult, he might not stay after next year, etc.’
I always thought this situation would end in one of two ways. The first was Rudy getting traded in the off-season. The second was Rudy coming back, playing well, getting cheered for…and then getting traded mid-season. The last was Rudy getting over this and deciding to challenge himself to get better. I never saw this coming, did you?
Saying Rudy is homesick is one thing…but what can you do about it? I don’t understand how Miller can gripe about the sacrifices Fernandez’ made to come over here….when he’s having his client prepare to make even more sacrifices. He’s set to lose millions in this ordeal. Rudy can’t just go sign a contract in Europe, FIBA won’t let him play as long as he has an NBA contract.
The reaction from Blazer Nation was unhappy, to say the least. Whiner. Baby. Absurd. Good Riddance. All words thrown around by Blazer fans. I can’t remember a Blazer who has gone from such a huge fan favorite to hated so quickly. I guess you could pick a name from the Jail Blazer era, but that was a different time. That team was good so fans had to find ways to cheer them and ignore some of their inane actions. With Rudy, the Blazer fans seemed to have a genuine love affair with him, chanting his name, wanting to see him do well. All Blazer fans want are hard workers, who clearly want to be around and fit in with the team. It’s easy to see how they feel slapped in the face.
Let’s think about the Blazers here for a second, who invested $3 million dollars from the jump just to get the rights to Fernandez. Once you put that kind of money into something, generally speaking, you want to see its success under your roof. Not only that but you want to get mileage out of said investment. None of us would, for example, buy a nice computer, put money into it and then just hand it off to someone. So why would Portland trade Fernandez for peanuts, when he could just come back and potentially be traded for more or just play well in the Rose City.
All of that being said, there is always two sides to the story, and there was one we may never find out. The easy way out for me would be to sit here and talk about how Rudy Fernandez is taking the easy way out. That he’s quitting on his teammates, the organization and the fans. And while those statements may have elements of truth to them, it’s not the whole story.
To be upset with Rudy Fernandez for being homesick is a bit of a stretch. To be upset with Rudy Fernandez for being frustrated with his role is also a stretch. We’ll never know unless we’ve been put in that kind of situation. The man did sacrifice money to come to the NBA, and we all know how money can change people’s feelings ASAP. I mean I’ve always wanted to work for ESPN, and if I had a good job and took less money to go there and it wasn’t what I thought it would be…I’m sure part of me would be frustrated. He did leave his homeland, to come to Portland, Oregon…my lovely, lovely hometown…but a place that can occasionally be dreary. An immediate change from Spain.
(Before you shoot me Portlanders, I know Spain has it’s dreary moments as well.)
There is a part of me that sees where he is coming from. Take a look at the number of players who go overseas to play ball and either leave or never want to go back. Think about the number of college players who transfer year in, year out, in nearly every sport. I don’t think there is any sport that sees situations so deeply tied with performance like in the NBA. We could all collectively come up with a list of names of guys who could really do well…if given the right opportunity, the right situation. Look at Channing Frye. Floundered until he find the perfect spot for him. Now look at a guy like Ike Diogu…very talented, but still can’t find a spot for him and might be out of the league. Look at a guy like Lou Amundson, who thought he found his spot in Phoenix only to see it taken away. As much as I love the game, there is a cruel aspect to the NBA that few speak of.
As beautiful as it may sound on paper, the experience can sometimes leave one feeling empty. On a strictly basketball level, it would be a tough change to go from being a star, treated like a star, being accomodated to offensively…to all of a sudden just being asked to stand in a corner. I mean imagine going to play pickup at a gym, killing fools regularly, going to a different gym and watching as guys you think you’re better then are getting all the opportunities.
I don’t want this to sound like I’m taking Rudy’s side, because I’m not. I’m disappointed in the handling of this situation. I don’t like how public and messy it is. I don’t like how there is no clear reason for Fernandez to be acting like this. We all thought it was about minutes and then Andy Miller comes out and says ‘that’s the least of Rudy’s concerns’. Then what…is…the…problem? Come out and say something. Own up to it. This is the opposite of Juan Carlos Navarro leaving. Remember, he had a legit beef with Memphis–one for not being very good and two for trading away his best friend Pau Gasol. Did Rudy love Sergio that much? Maybe. But Portland was winning, attempting to build a championship team and Rudy was clearly a major part of that.
My biggest problem with this whole ordeal is we have yet to hear one negative word come directly from Rudy Fernandez’ mouth. It’s his agent, or a Spanish newspaper reporter, or someone else. It’s harder to connect and understand when the words are not coming straight from the camel’s mouth. Who knows what Miller’s intentions are? Is he using the last pawn that he has to get Rudy out of Portland? It’s strange because coming out like this, before the World Championships was not only odd-timing but ill-advised. He has no leverage and he has also has no backing.