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.