Rudy Fernandez: Thorn in Blazers' Side

| by Dwight Jaynes

You know, pardon my cynicism (and you’re here, so you must be used to it, by now)… but I can’t help but think that a lot of what we’re hearing from the Trail Blazer off-guard right now is about money.

And really, with these guys, isn’t it usually about the money?

He misses home? He misses his family?

Well, maybe. But whether you’re from Spain or from some backwater place in Mississippi, you’re a long way from home when you end up in Portland. And just about every pro athlete has to leave home and leave his family to go earn a living. Yes, he’s from another country — but the NBA world is much bigger these days and I have to tell you, there are plenty of other guys over here in the same situation as Rudy.

But what must be understood here is how much more money the guy can earn in Europe than he can in the NBA at this point of his career. He’s part of the rookie wage scale right now and is stuck there. He’s making barely more than a million bucks a year — which is great for you and me but for him, a ripoff.

The fact is, in Europe he’d command probably four times that. And his real problem is that he hasn’t played well enough in the NBA to do very well, financially, even when not constricted by his rookie deal. The guy has sort of blown that opportunity.

I make it a rule in most cases not to feel sorry for millionaires and I guess when it comes to able-bodied, healthy, handsome and talented ones, I’m even more adamant about that. The guy has had a lot of chances here to show his talents and he’s never really capitalized. Yes, the system sucks here for him. An uptempo game would be better.

But that doesn’t change that he’s not adapted at all to his situation and flunked some big playoff opportunities.

What he did on media day was calculated by Rudy or his agent (or both) and vicious. In five minutes, Fernandez’s words cut his trade value down to something just north of zero. He’s tried to leave his franchise with little choice but to settle up on his contract and let him go home, where he can make a lot more money.

I’m not sure what the team’s next move is, but it may be important to take a stance that the franchise isn’t going to be bullied. I think it may be possible to suspend him — but that will depend on how he performs in camp. Because of an alleged eye problem, he didn’t work out on the first day of camp. If he continues to find excuses not to play — or if he pouts his way through practices, then I think the team ought to do whatever it can to mess with him, quite frankly.

We will see. But I think it’s important to remember that when players do stuff like this, it’s almost always about the money. And if that’s the case, I’ve lost some respect for the player. Not being able to make the grade as an NBA player is no disgrace.

But quitting when things don’t go your way and running away from it is quite a bit of a disgrace. In a business where being a competitor is supposed to be a requirement, running away from a challenge is not a viable option.

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