Rudy Fernandez isn't drinking the Blazer Kool-Aid these days

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nba_fernandez_250.jpgA long, long time ago, things were undeniably pleasant in Blazerland. Brandon Roy’s rise to stardom had invigorated an already fervent fan base, LaMarcus Aldridge was well on his way to becoming an impact player, and a collection of young talent spearheaded by the imminent Rookie of the Year, Greg Oden, looked set to take the NBA by storm for the next decade. On top of it all, Kevin Pritchard, the bell of the GM’s ball, seemed to be on a can’t-miss streak.

Then came the injuries. To Roy, to Oden, to Travis Outlaw, to Martell Webster, to Joel Przybilla, and to everyone playing pick-up ball in the greater Portland area while wearing Blazer garb. The sweetness started to get just a bit sour, and even though the ’09-’10 Blazers’ 50-win mark is a spectacular achievement given the season’s circumstances, it doesn’t quite measure up to the team’s promise.

It’s almost not fair to make such an assessment now, given how much the Blazers will improve with some better luck and a healthy roster. There’s still a lot going right in Portland, even if the bizarre string of injuries ended Portland’s season in the first round this year.

So of course, there are other problems. While the off-season gives the Blazers an opportunity to rehab and recover, it also gives every player on the roster plenty of time to stew, including Rudy Fernandez. I wouldn’t say Rudy is disgruntled per se, but the rumors of his discontent in Portland have been rolling for some time now. So naturally, with the off-season as a catalyst for reflection, Rudy is vocalizing a bit of what’s been bothering him. Here’s Fernandez, in an interview by Diario De Mallorca (as translated by HoopsHype), via Blazers Edge:

“Disappointed and deceived. I’ve always asked for more responsibility
on the team but this season they didn’t give any chance. Something like
that makes you lose all focus, because you don’t know what is going to
happen next year.”

Regarding a possible trade, Fernandez states, “I’m comfortable in
Portland but I’m sure I could provide experience and talent to another
team.”
Fernandez also denies, again, any contact with major Spanish clubs in Barcelona and Madrid.

Fernandez will play hard for Portland for as long as they’ll have him, but BlazerNation needs to refill Rudy’s Kool-Aid cup, ASAP. Not because this situation will grow to be completely out of control or because Fernandez is some kind of malcontent, but because in order to continue to build the team while retaining as much talent as possible, Rudy is an important piece. Maybe he’s a movable piece, but still an important one.

It’s possible that the Blazers will try to move Fernandez this summer to accommodate his desire for an increased role, or just to clear up minutes on the wing. Either way, even Rudy’s cult following among the Blazer faithful aren’t enough to keep his spirits up these days, and Fernandez is hungry for more minutes, more touches, and more responsibility.

Cavaliers celebrate Raptors win over Bucks because they don’t have to practice (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors closed out the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night in Game 6, 92-89. Toronto’s social media team even tried trolling the Bucks about it.

In any case, the Raptors now move on to the second round, despite their best efforts, to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, have been waiting for an opponent after sweeping the Indiana Pacers.

Cavaliers wingman Richard Jefferson — a Snapchat legend, it should be mentioned — took to the social media platform to celebrate playing the Raptors.

Er, or maybe just the fact that the team didn’t have to practice Friday.

Via Twitter:

Cleveland’s biggest test before the Finals might just be the Raptors, and we will get to see them head-to-head in the second round.

Raptors troll Bucks after closing in Game 6 with RapsIn6.com website (VIDEO)

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Despite a disastrous fourth quarter performance, the Toronto Raptors closed the series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. The Raptors came away from Game 6 with a 92-89 victory and a chance to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round.

Meanwhile, the rivalry between the Raptors and the Bucks appears to be alive and well, as the Raptors pushed a video on social media after the game ended that was pointed toward the Bucks.

In it, the Raptors mascot registers a domain name for the team at RapsIn6.com, then proceeds to sip tea in the style of the famous Kermit meme.

In case you are out of the loop, this is a reference to Brandon Jennings saying Milwaukee would beat the Miami Heat in six games back in 2013.

Meanwhile, game ops at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee played the theme song from the children’s TV show “Barney” during Raptors player introductions.

Nothing really happens if you go to RapsIn6.com. There’s nothing on the website save for the video the Raptors posted to social media, which you can watch above.

Toronto has their core together and presumably will for a little while. The Bucks are a growing young team. I’m cool with them duking it out in the postseason for years to come.

Bucks storm back at home, Raptors hang on for 92-89 win, advance to second round

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Nothing can be easy for the Raptors.

They were cruising, up 25 in the third quarter, whipping the ball around on offense, hitting threes, making sharp rotations on defense, and generally overwhelming a Bucks team that did not look ready for the moment.

Then everything changed. The Raptors offense went ice cold, and the ball movement stopped, and the Bucks were getting big plays from Giannis Antetokounmpo and — out of nowhere — Jason Terry. Across the third-and-fourth quarters the Bucks went on a 34-7 run, hitting 5-of-7 from three, one of those a Terry three to put the Bucks up 80-78.

The Raptors then responded like a veteran team, going on a 9-0 run led by DeMar DeRozan, who was the best Toronto player in the series. The Bucks had their chances, but shot 6-of-14 on free throws in the fourth, and Milwaukee started to look tired like the comeback had taken too much out of them. They made the mental mistakes of a young team learning hard lessons.

Toronto hung on for a 92-89 win, and they take the series 4-2.

The Raptors will open their conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers on Monday night in Cleveland.

The star of the night for Toronto was clearly DeRozan, who finished with 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting. Beyond that, he was quick with the recognition of double-teams and was moving the ball, plus had a key defensive play late. However, his biggest moment was this dunk.

The Bucks came out with some desperation early. Antetokounmpo had 14 in the first quarter and got his team off to a good start, but the Raptors settled down, got the ball inside, kicked out for threes, and led by 28-24 at the half.

Milwaukee fell into playing a lot of isolation basketball, while the Raptors were moving the ball and finding the mismatches. The result was a 13-point second quarter from the Bucks (who shot just 3-of-17 from outside the paint in the first half and 1-of-9 from three), and a 51-38 Raptors lead at the half. DeRozan had 16 at the break.

The second half saw the Raptors seem to pull away, going up 25 at one point and being in total control.

Then the Bucks made it interesting. It started with a 15-3 run at the end of the third, which carried over to the fourth quarter and soon the lead was in single digits. The key was some ball movement for the Bucks, some made threes, great play from Antetokounmpo.

However, the larger issue was the Raptors just came apart on offense. From the 6 minute mark of the third quarter through the middle of the fourth, the Raptors were 4-of-16 shooting total, 2-of-8 from three, and that was led by DeRozan suddenly going 1-of-6. The Raptors let them back in the game.

What veteran teams know how to do — and what the Bucks are still learning — is how to bounce back from those stretches. Kyle Lowry made some solid plays, DeRozan dunked, the Raptors got some stops, and they found a way to hang on for the win.

DeRozan and Lowry — 13 points — were the only Raptors to finish in double figures.

Antetokounmpo had 34 for the Bucks and carried his team for long stretches. Khris Middleton added 19, and Matthew Dellavedova had a dozen off the bench.

 

Serge Ibaka, Giannis Antetokounmpo trade massive blocks during Raptors-Bucks (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is a long dude. So is Toronto Raptors big man Serge Ibaka. The two faced off in Game 6 at the Bradley Center on Thursday night, so it makes sense the two wound up using one of their most impressive physical assets against each other.

Let the battle of length begin!

Via Twitter:

That’s Ibaka blocking the Milwaukee Bucks star on an attempt at the rim, on a dunk no less. That was impressive, no doubt, but just a minute later, it was Antetokounpmo coming through with a big time block on DeMar DeRozan:

But DeRozan got his revenge later in the fourth quarter, throwing down a dunk over the Bucks defense that was perhaps the finger in the wall needed to stop the leak that was Toronto’s disastrous final period.

DeRozan and the Raptors got the last laugh, winning the closeout game on the road, 92-89. Toronto will go on to play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semi finals.