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.

Four Things to Watch in two Game 7s Sunday

during game six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 29, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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It’s what the playoffs are all about — win or go home Game 7s. Pressure, drama, unlikely stars Sunday is going to have it all. Here are a few things to watch:

1) Can Miami’s jump shooters have another hot game? Dwyane Wade got the headlines (and he earned them) for his Game 6 performance (everyone except purple shirt guy was impressed), but the real key for the Heat to force a Game 7 was they were hitting their jumpers — or at least enough of them. In their three losses, Miami shot 33.7 percent from 3 feet out to the arc, but in Game 6 the Heat shot 43.5 percent in that range, plus knocked down eight threes. The Hornets have packed the paint all series, when the Heat hit their jumpers they win. It’s that simple.

2) Does Kemba Walker have one more big game in him? Walker was fantastic in Game 6 (37 points), and he’s been very good in the Hornets’ victories. He’s going to penetrate and get some shots inside eight feet, but will he be able to finish? And, more importantly, will he hit his threes when they pack the paint on him? If Walker has a huge game, Charlotte very likely moves on.

3) Is Toronto too far into their own head? No team has more pressure on them to advance out of the first round than Toronto after two previous years of getting bounced in the first round, and they will feel that weight at home in Game 7 against Indiana. Will Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan step up with big games in the biggest moments of their careers, or will they succumb to the moment and the Pacers defense? For all the Xs and Os that do matter in this game, how the Raptors handle the pressure will be key.

4) Can the Pacers again get a few quality minutes when Paul George sits? In the Pacers comfortable Game 6 win, George got a rest in the second quarter and the Pacers were +5 while he sat. That was a huge step up from Game 5, where the Pacers were -18 when he was out for less than 7 minutes. If Indiana — by playing some starters such as Myles Turner — doesn’t have a huge bench drop off when George rests a few minutes their odds of winning go way up. We know Paul George can handle the moment.

Spurs demolish Thunder to take Game 1 of second-round series

SAN ANTONIO,TX - APRIL 30: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs scores over Steven Adams #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during game one of the Western Conference Semifinals for the 2016 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 30, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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The second round was supposed to be when things got exciting. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs put on an absolute clinic at home, blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 124-92 to take a 1-0 series lead.

Just about everything went in for San Antonio, particularly for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 63 points. How dominant were they?

Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.

It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.

Hawks get another playoff shot at King James and Cavaliers

at Philips Arena on April 1, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.

Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.

Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.

The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.

Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.

Report: Warriors to replace Luke Walton from outside the organization

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 12: Interim Coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors talks on the sideline during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 12, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.

Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.