Rudy Fernandez is leaving on a jet plan out of Denver, his contract ending at the end of June and his heart seemingly made up to return to Spain for at least three seasons. The speedy guard with the knack for throwing alley-oop lobs will sign with Real Madrid as a free agent on a three-year contract. Fernandez had played with Real during the lockout last year, only to return to the Nuggets.
“I am back to win with Real Madrid and to be an important player for the team” Fernandez said in a release. He finished with 9.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.0 steal per game on 40 percent shooting from the field. He shot almost just as well from three, 36 percent, but he was a streaky shooter. He played with flair that defines the Spanish national soccer team, but he wasn’t nearly as consistent. Worse, he essentially forced his way out of Portland by letting management know he would prefer a return home.
His best highlight might not even be from his short NBA career. Arguably, it’s his dunk over Dwight Howard in the 2008 Olympics in the gold-medal game. That slam had Trail Blazers fans thinking they had the second coming of Clyde Drexler about to arrive, and Nate McMillan — a Team USA assistant — was giddy inside.
From The Oregonian in 2008 were McMillan’s first impressions.
And after getting a front-row view for many of Spain’s games, McMillan said Fernandez, 23, is so talented that he will “definitely” play, and play a lot, for the Blazers.
“I’m sitting there (in the gold medal game) with a straight face, trying not to smile,” McMillan said. ” (Spain) are the guys we have to beat, but I’m caught. That’s my player and I want to (he claps his hands twice) but I gotta (he makes a serious face) because we are going up against him.”
McMillan said that early in the Olympics, after watching Spain’s second game, he had a fitful night of sleep.
“I was so impressed with him that it was to the point where after the second time I saw him, I didn’t sleep that night because I was moving my rotations around,” McMillan said. “I swear I did not sleep. I could not sleep thinking about him. Because I’m saying, ‘We can put him here, do this with him, do that with him and Brandon (Roy), and do this… So he’s playing for us. Oh yeah. I see that right now.”
The Blazers and Nuggets got that excitement from the 6-5 playmaker. His stay was just a little too short for everyone’s taste.
What do you think?
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