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Rudy Fernandez – time to shine

Much has been made recently of a supposed desire of Rudy Fernandez to leave the Portland Trail Blazers and high-tail it back to Spain. In my mind, there is a whole lot more fabrication to it than there is truth. On the contrary, the way I’ve seen it lately, right now is Fernandez’s time to shine.

A tight hamstring which has slowed Brandon Roy, forcing the All-Star guard to question his continued presence on the court this season, plays right into Rudy’s hands. Add to that the persistent ankle-tweaking woes of Jerryd Bayless and suddenly you have some wide-open opportunities for the Spaniard to show his wares, loosen up and prove that he is the player he intends to be.

This much is a given, whilst Roy remains a Blazer, Fernandez will not take his position in the starting lineup. It’s just not going to happen. It also appears readily apparent that Andre Miller is entrenched for at least the next one to two seasons as the starting point guard. Fernandez however, is that perfect bench player — a fire starter in the same way as Manu Ginobili is for the San Antonio Spurs. He ignites the offence with his fast-breaking tendencies and his potent outside shooting.

Now, of late, Fernandez’s long bombs have not been meeting their mark. Slumps happen. Unfortunately, often in tough times, the reaction of some is to look to make drastic changes, rather than riding out the storm. Whether Rudy is indeed looking to do that is another story. What is clear though, is that there are many fans and media-types who see this as an opportunity to start a storm in a tea-cup at a convenient time to paint Rudy as a malcontent who wants out and a one-way ticket back to the Balearics.

In fact, at no point has Fernandez actually publicly asked to be moved. Check the interviews, check the tape. He is in a state of flux and disappointment. That likely extends to the way his coach is treating him in the rotation, but I’m sure that Nicolas Batum, Jerryd Bayless and Martell Webster all have similar gripes. And don’t even get me started on the apparently forgotten Patty Mills, who hears of D-League call-ups being considered to fill the minutes he should be getting.

Nate McMillanNate McMillan is a tough-love coach. He can be stoic at times. He is also dealing with a squad loaded with talent — particularly in the positions that Fernandez plays. This much is clear though, with the trade that shipped Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw out of town came a stamp of approval and support for Fernandez and Bayless as the second unit backcourt. And what a perfect pairing they can be. Where Bayless likes to drive to the basket and can be considered by many to be a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s body, Fernandez has the outside shooting ability, ball-handling skills and court-awareness to complement Bayless on the court perfectly.

Every good team needs a solid bench unit to take them through playoff runs and injury periods. Take a look at the injuries that the Blazers have endured this season (and they keep on rolling — welcome Marcus Camby). Fernandez has been one of those in the casuality ward and that no doubt has added to his lack of rhythm, together with the ever-changing lineups and the loss of his former running mate in Sergio Rodriguez.

However Fernandez will re-emerge from this slump. People need to remember this. And last night against the Toronto Raptors was a perfect example of that. Rudy went off for 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 31 bench minutes. He drilled three from deep.Those are the perfect numbers of a sixth man. Those are the type of numbers that the Blazers need to be able to expect of Fernandez on a semi-regular basis. With renewed conditioning and a return to his old rhythm, those numbers will come.

Here is an interview with Fernandez post game, where he seems relieved to have regained his touch, but also careful to avoid the bating from Mike Barrett on the topic of his supposed disgruntlement. And good on him for avoiding it.

Fans and media, particularly in these information-heavy days of the internet, easily forget what was happening last week, let alone last season. People get fickle. Many forget how beloved Rudy was in Portland this past Summer, as the majority of fans would gasp at the thought of seeing him outside of Blazers colours. He was on many people’s untradeable lists. But a small slump can change all that. Harden up, people. Take a gulp and remember your dignity. Supporting a team is about supporting the players — regardless of short slumps in form.

Rudy Fernandez will return to form. I know it. This entire scenario will blow over. Next season he will continue to be in Blazers black and red. And everyone will have forgotten this entire drama. Sure, there are certain things that Fernandez can not do — he’s not the greatest defender in the world and his body will likely remain wiry for the length of his career. However, his outside stroke can be deadly (see the rookie record for threes that he set), he is deadicating himself to improving his mid-range game with floaters and most importantly from my perspective, the guy has an amazing basketball IQ and court awareness. He moves the court and spots teammates like a point guard — something that should not be lost.

So kill the speculation people. Let this blow over. Or perhaps you need to spend your time on the celeb gossip websites.

Here are some other viewpoints on the Rudy Fernandez situation:

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