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.

Watch Orlando’s Terrence Ross drain halfcourt buzzer beater just before half

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Back on their home court, the Orlando Magic are hanging right with the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the 1-1 series.

This helped.

It looked like the Magic would go into halftime down by at least six, and then Terrence Ross did this.

Ross’ name came up a lot just before the trade deadline when other teams thought the Magic would decide to tank and move on from their players who could bring back assets to help the rebuild. The Magic were 10 games below .500 and four games out of the eight seed. Orlando decided instead to push for the postseason, and they made their first playoffs since the Dwight Howard era, climbing all the way to the seven seed. That would not have happened without Ross.

Now they are making the most of their opportunity.

Joel Embiid listed as doubtful for 76ers’ Game 4 vs Nets Saturday

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers are listing Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 4 of their first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets.

Embiid has been bothered by a sore left knee, but was able to play in the first two games of the series. He warmed up before Game 3 on Thursday night before it was decided that he couldn’t play.

Embiid worked out Friday at the 76ers’ practice in New York but coach Brett Brown said he didn’t know and didn’t have a gut feeling about whether his All-Star center would be able to go Saturday afternoon.

The 76ers rolled to a 131-115 victory without Embiid and lead the series 2-1. Greg Monroe started at center and had nine points and 13 rebounds, although is role was limited as the game wore on.

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka reportedly meets with Tyronn Lue as coaching search continues

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Rob Pelinka seems to have all the front office power in Los Angeles — whether that is wise is another conversation entirely — and he is continuing full speed ahead with the search for the next Lakers’ coach.

Pelinka reportedly has already been in Philadelphia and met with Sixers assistant Monty Williams, who is still busy coaching a playoff team. Miami assistant coach Juwan Howard also reportedly in the mix and is supposed to meet with Pelinka next week.

Friday came the report Pelinka was about to meet with former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. This has been expected.

Lue and Williams are considered the frontrunners, and both have a relationship with LeBron James that would net a thumbs up from the Lakers’ star. Lue coached LeBron to a championship in Cleveland, and while a lot of casual fans like to rip his coaching by the end of his time with the Cavaliers he was running some pretty creative stuff and getting players into good matchups and positions.

Williams is a former Pelicans’ head coach who also has a strong relationship with Anthony Davis (not that the hiring of a coach would have any impact on where Davis is traded, however, if he leaves where he is traded as a free agent in 2020 the coach could be a factor). Williams has spent time in the Spurs front office and on the coaching bench for the Sixers and Thunder. Williams’ strength is the perception he is not LeBron’s guy, unlike Lue.

Wojnarowski also said that Lue is pushing back on the idea he is LeBron’s coach, saying he would be coaching the Lakers not just one player. In Cleveland, Lue had the trust of LeBron and that allowed the coach to challenge his star at points.

Minnesota to meet with Chauncey Billups, Trajan Langdon for lead front office job

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Minnesota may have settled on its coach for next season — Ryan Saunders seems to have a lock on the position — and are now working backward to hire his boss, the new president of basketball operations.

That could be former Pistons legend and current ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups, or Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, both of whom have interviews coming up with Minnesota’s leadership, according to reports.

Billups has the most recognizable name of the group and a high basketball IQ, but he also has zero front office experience. While Billups has shown interest in other GM/basketball ops jobs before, there are some around the league questioning if Minnesota owner Glen Taylor is going to pay what it would take to get Billups out of ESPN. That said, there will at least be a conversation.

Minnesota also has met with Clippers GM Michael Winger, Rockets’ No. 2 Gersson Rosas, and Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth. This is a strong lineup of people from the “guys who have paid their dues and deserve a shot” file.”

Whoever takes over the job will fill the shoes of Tom Thibodeau, who was let go mid-season and who hamstrung the roster with his win-now decisions. In the positives column, Minnesota has All-NBA level player in Karl-Anthony Towns at the heart of the roster. After KAT there is work to do. Andrew Wiggins will make $27.5 million next season and has four more seasons after that at max money (right now that contract is as close to untradable as any in the NBA). Gorgui Dieng will make $16.2 million, and Jeff Teague opted into his $19 million. Lowering the cost of this roster while turning the Timberwolves back into a playoff team will require a lot of creativity.