Day two of training camp has been completed, and if a consistent thread is starting to emerge it’s that Rudy Fernandez is being watched, and watched closely. On the opening day of practice he didn’t participate due to blurred vision, on the second day he participated but was then sidelined prematurely after a blocked shot landed him on his back. This much and more has been well documented by Blazersedge, along with a dramatic slide show that should be watched as slowly as possible, preferably with an ominous instrumental overlay.
Each day new stories and new takes on what to do with Rudy are coming out. Dwight Jaynes claims Rudy is attempting subterfuge, making himself worthless to the point that the Blazers have no choice but to bend to his demands and cut him loose. Beyond the Beat’s Wendell Maxey summed up the situation in this tweet a few days ago.
My personal opinion is a little mixed. I like Rudy as a basketball player. As a rookie he provided some great spark to the Blazers. Two incidents come to mind. The first was when Rudy needed six threes to break the rookie record for threes made in a season coming into the final regular season game, and he got those six threes. The second Rudy moment, and the one that embodies Rudy as a player more than anything he did before or has done since, was when he scored five points in three seconds against the Phoenix Suns.
Here’s the video evidence:
This is a great sequence for a number of reasons. First and foremost, this brought the house down. Not Brandon Roy beating Houston brought the house down, but to the point that watching the replay gives me chills. Second, it is an example of Rudy’s versatility and basketball IQ. You can see the steal and three develop in the replay. Rudy notices that Jason Richardson is going to make a lazy pass, and he hustles across the court to get into the passing lane. From there he makes the easy pick, steps up to the line, and like a cold blooded killer, drains the three. The third great part of this sequence piggy-backs with the second. This was a back-breaker. The Suns were not a great team in 2008-09, but at this point in the season they were challenging for a playoff spot, and Portland was deadlocked in a heated battle for the top four seeds and home court advantage. This was a back-and-forth game until this point, and a blowout for the final 12 minutes, all thanks to three seconds provided by Rudy Fernandez. Let’s not forget that this kid can play ball.
Of course we can’t forget about the woes of Rudy’s second season, but the truth is sophomore slumps are pretty common, and the 2009-10 season was anything but ordinary for the entire Blazer organization.
That brings me to my main issue with the Rudy Fernandez situation. It’s stopped being about basketball. It’s become about challenging Rudy’s manhood, and about the potential of Rudy lying to and deceiving the Blazers. Jaynes calls for the Blazers to mess with Rudy as long as he’s messing with them. Who knows, probably not what I would do, but of course I’m not the GM.
My naive hope is that when the real basketball starts this whole issue will melt away. Rudy’s under contract, he intends to stay with the team, and as far as anyone knows, the team is not going to release him. Nate McMillan seemed to be pretty level about the whole situation at media day. His concern is winning basketball games and putting the five best players on the court. There are going to be occasions when one of those five players may be Rudy Fernandez. Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw are no longer Blazers, meaning that there will be plenty of minutes to be thrown his way. A second unit comprised of Wesley Matthews, Jerryd Bayless, and Rudy Fernandez would be pretty potent. Throw in Greg Oden, Dante Cunningham, or Jeff Pendergraph as bigs, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more skilled and athletic second unit in the league.
But of course that’s basketball talk, and the Rudy Fernandez situation is about everything but basketball. I guess my hope is that at some point we can get back to talking about Blazer basketball, whether or not Rudy Fernandez is part of that conversation remains to be seen.