Hey ’Cats. This week I thought I’d take a break from football and shift the focus to my other love: the Portland Trail Blazers. After all, with a bye week for Linfield this weekend, what else am I going to write about?
I digress. This week, I want to talk about one of the (formerly) most beloved Blazers, a player who flexed his immense potential for one shining season, then fell victim to injury, became grouchy about playing time and now sits languishing in basketball hell awaiting a trade. I’m referring to Rudy Fernandez.
In Rudy’s rookie season, he became an instant Portland celebrity. Before he even began playing, a contingent of fans, including dozens of high school students who dumped class, mobbed the Portland airport to greet the new superstar.
He shattered the rookie record for 3-pointers in a single season; he electrified the Rose Garden with thundering dunks and alley-oops to fellow Spaniard Sergio Rodriguez; heck, he was even in the NBA all-star weekend’s slam dunk contest. Rudy was a celebrity, a hero to Portlanders.
When he was fouled hard by Trevor Ariza at home against the Lakers, I was scared that the fans at the Garden might charge onto the court and take the offending player by force.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
This summer, Rudy requested a trade. It was apparent by the end of the season that he wasn’t happy with his minutes or his role in Nate McMillan’s
schematic. He said he wasn’t being given the number of minutes that someone of his ability deserves.
Rookie general manager What’s-His-Name (I refuse to acknowledge him by name until the season starts; in K.P. I will forever trust) said he would shop the guard, who was now popularly being referred to as “disgruntled” by the media.
Fair enough. I have no problem with players requesting a trade when they’re unhappy, so long as they’re civil about it and stay fair to the organization that they still call home. Portland fans bemoaned his possible loss, but life carried on.
Then things got ugly. Rudy demanded a trade. He told coach McMillan to shove it, told the Blazers to shove it, and his agent basically told the team that Rudy would refuse to play a single minute for the team if he wasn’t traded right away. He threatened to walk out on his contract and go to Spain. But here’s my favorite part: His agent, one of those mucky-muck Hollywood types, said that if the Blazers didn’t start listening to his demands, that their fare with other international players might start slipping.
I think, Mr. Agent, that perhaps Rudy ought to pull his head out from where the sun doesn’t shine before the rest of the NBA ships him back to Spain with a one-way ticket. Requesting a trade is a completely normal action for an unhappy NBA player, but trashing their current franchise to do it not only makes them look terrible to the media but also makes their options with other teams plummet.
General Manager What’s-His-Name is still shopping Rudy but hasn’t found a trade that works yet. I don’t think one will ever come based on that and the fact that Rudy rejected a possible trade to the New Orleans Hornets recently.
There is just no way to make this guy happy. Maybe it’s a language barrier thing; I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m hurt, on a very personal level, by Rudy’s actions this summer. I, like the rest of Portland, loved him from the moment he arrived. In only one season, there were legions of screaming women of all ages at every home (and road) contest for the Blazers, and he was by far the flashiest player to watch; nobody ever knew what he was going to do.
Now he spurns us for more playing time. Does he even realize the crap storm he’s causing in the city and organization? Does he realize that this franchise is only a few years removed from the Jail Blazers era? His actions call to mind the antics of Bonzi, Mighty Mouse and Sheed, and you better believe every Blazers fan is now connecting the dots between the two.
Well, Mr. Fernandez, I say fie to thee and good riddance. This city has taken enough basketball abuse and we don’t need your skinny butt to stink up our bench any longer. I agree with a recent column by Oregonian sports writer John Canzano: Rudy should rot until we can find a trade we like. He has earned nothing less.
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.