When Rudy Fernandez says he wants out of Portland (and he can’t say say it unless he wants to eat another fine, but he has said it), what he really means is that he wants out of the NBA. He was absolutely forlorn on Media Day (you can see the video of his Media Day appearance here, thanks to Ben Golliver of BlazersEdge), where he expressed his desire to return to Europe for professional reasons (he feels that the European leagues are a better stylistic fit for him) but also personal ones (to be closer to his family). However, Fernandez also noted that he’s still under contract with the Blazers and intends to fulfill that contract, though he’s clearly ready to sulk his way through it.
If Portland plans to get anything out of Fernandez this season — and clearly they do — then his mood is of high importance. Rudy may love the game, but if he’s disinterested on the court, does he simply park himself in the corner and abandon cuts and curls that have made him an effective off-ball player in the past? Does his already questionable defense take a nosedive to unacceptable levels? I’m sure the Blazers don’t really care to find out, but in an interview with 95.5 The Game in Portland, Blazer captain Brandon Roy insisted that the game’s natural competition will pull Rudy back into the swing of things (via Sports Radio Interviews):
“[The whole Rudy saga] wasn’t about being traded it was about really being homesick. My thing is really trying to make Rudy as comfortable trying to be a part of this team as possible. I think some of Rudy’ talking is a lot of what we call ‘lip service’. When I saw Rudy yesterday, he was smiling. It looked to me that he was happy to be here. I think getting out there on the court, playing with them all and getting out there talking to guys and just trying to go through the whole training camp experience will bring him even closer to this team. He is a competitor and I think we will get the best out of him.”
To an extent, I’d agree. Fernandez is the kind of player that could easily be swept up in the season’s natural momentum (and by that, I just mean that he’s in this gig for more than the free Gatorade and dental insurance), and play the part of the good soldier, or at least one willing to go through the motions. That bodes fairly well for the Blazers, who don’t need to make Rudy into a convert, but merely a willing participant. Portland has long-term options, but for now, Fernandez needs only to fill in minutes on the wing behind some of the Blazers’ more embedded players.
CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.
Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.
James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.
Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.
Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.
After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”
Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.
Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.
This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.
One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.
LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.
Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.
That lasted about a minute.
LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.
For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.
The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.
With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.
I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.
That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.