Things are getting ugly for Rudy Fernandez and the Blazers

Feb. 23, 2010 - East Rutherford, NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES - epa02051014 The Trailblazers' Rudy Fernandez (R), of Spain, looks to pass past the Nets' Devin Harris (L) during the second half of the game between the Portland Trailblazers and the New Jersey Nets at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA, on 23 February 2010. The Portland Trailblazers won, 102-93.

Months of trade speculation have gone by and now Rudy Fernandez is officially asking out of his contract so that he can return to Spain. His agent Andy Miller is making that perfectly clear. Per The Columbian

“There’s nothing to fix,” Miller said. “He does not want to come back to the NBA.”

“This is not a bluff,” Miller said. “In his mind, he’s not coming back.”

Miller said he has attempted to be fair and reasonable with the Blazers during negotiations. But after waiting

months for Portland to make a move, the “light is out.”

“In my mind, we’re at a very unnecessary juncture,” Miller said. “I’m certainly not happy as an NBA agent that this is happening.”

The Oregonian has more details…

Rudy Fernandez will not report to the Trail Blazers training camp in October and the disgruntled guard has no intention of playing for the Blazers for the remaining two years of his contract, his agent said Wednesday.

Fernandez, 25, is unhappy with his role and is frustrated with the offensive style of coach Nate McMillan, whom he says limits him to just a shooter, and not the playmaker he has shown he can be in international play.

Miller said new Blazers general manager Rich Cho has “overreached” in his attempt to trade Fernandez, turning down offers from Chicago, New York and Boston, leaving Miller and Fernandez with no option other than to hold firm that the former first-round pick will not report.

“All I can do now is stand on the roof top and scream ‘He’s not coming!’,” Miller said. “He’s just not coming back … I’ve made that clear.”

“Why would anyone want to hold anyone against their will?” Miller asked. “He’s not going to want to practice, he’s not going to want to be around his teammates. I mean, if they thought he was difficult when he was contributing, imagine how difficult he will be when he is not.”

Last week, I examined Fernandez’s case that he should get more playing time, and found that it wasn’t all that strong. He certainly hasn’t been the guy that we saw play so well in the 2008 Olympics, but then again, the NBA is a different animal. Fernandez has far more freedom when he plays for Spain than he does in Portland, and clearly he craves that kind of responsibility.

For his part, new Portland GM Rich Cho is taking a hard line with Fernandez and has said repeatedly that he’s not going to make a trade just to make a trade. But now Fernandez isn’t asking for a trade. He wants to leave the NBA altogether — will the Blazers let him out of his contract?

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Does Rudy Fernandez deserve to start?

Mar. 28, 2010 - Oklahoma City, OKLAHOMA, UNITED STATES - epa02097227 Portland Trail Blazers player Rudy Fernandez from Spain during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second half of the game at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, 28 March 2010.

I keep hearing that Rudy Fernandez is unhappy with the amount of playing time he has been getting in Portland, and that he’s angling for a trade to a team where he’ll have an opportunity to play more minutes.

Fine. But does he deserve to play more minutes?

In 2008-09, he averaged 25.5 minutes per game. In 2009-10, that number fell to 23.2. In order to determine if Fernandez should get starter’s minutes (which I define as around 28 min per game), I parsed out those games where he played 28+ minutes to see if he played any better with that much run. Here’s what I found:

Obviously, his numbers are going to go up the more minutes he plays, so the key numbers to look at are his shooting percentages and his Efficiency Per Minute (EPM), which provides a good overview of what Fernandez brings to the table statistically on a per minute basis. He does play about 8% better (in terms of per minute stats) when he gets 28+ minutes per game. But that’s to be expected, assuming a player is in good physical shape and can play extra minutes. The more minutes you play the more comfortable you are, and the more comfortable you are, the better you’ll play.

However, his EPM of .400 in starter’s minutes is not particularly good. There are 53 shooting guards and small forwards that averaged 28+ minutes per game this season, and the group’s average EPM was .458. Fernandez would rank #38 (or in the 30th percentile) if he were included in this group, just ahead of guys like O.J. Mayo, Richard Jefferson, Rip Hamilton, Marvin Williams, Ryan Gomes and Eric Gordon.

Looking only at shooting guards, Fernandez’s performance in 28+ minutes would trail John Salmons (.401), Ray Allen (.426), Jason Terry (.431) and Anthony Morrow (.432).

Moreover, he ranks ahead of several players — Ronnie Brewer, Courtney Lee, Ron Artest and Thabo Sefolosha — who are known more for their defense than anything they produce offensively or statistically. Fernandez’s defense is considered to be mediocre at best.

So to answer the question posed in the title of this post — no, he does not deserve to start, at least not for a playoff team. Virtually everyone who ranks below him in EPM plays for a lottery team or is known more for their defense than their offense.

He may very well get his wish and find a new home, but the chances of him finding a situation where he’s going to get starter’s minutes on a playoff-caliber team certainly seem slim.

His coach, Nate McMillan, sums it up pretty well:

“The thing about it, anybody in the league can use him,” McMillan said. “He’s a good player. He’s a rotational player. For some teams, he’s going to be able to start. For some teams, he’s going to have to come off the bench. If he goes to Boston, he’s probably coming off the bench behind one of those guys, Ray Allen or Paul Pierce. So it just depends on where he goes as far as his role and how he would play. But his talent, there are a lot of teams that can use him and take advantage of what he does. But we’ll see what happens.”

The top 10 first round steals of the last 10 years

Everyone loves to focus on the lottery, but there are good players to be had in the late first round as well. A while back, I put together a list of the top second round picks of the modern era, so now I’m going to focus on those players that were drafted between pick #21 and pick #30 in the first round. (Note: If a player was drafted in the second round, even if they were taken with the #29 or #30 pick overall, they are ineligible to make the list. Sorry, Gilbert.) Since there are more star-quality players available in the 20’s, I’m limiting this list to the last ten drafts (i.e. 1999 through 2008).

It is sometimes tough to rank older players with newer players, but even if a younger player holds more trade value right now, I am going to take into account each player’s entire career. For the young guys, I have to project a little bit, so keep that in mind as you read and react. I feel great about the top eight guys, but there are a few players that missed the list that are pretty interchangeable with #9 and #10.

On with the list…

10. Aaron Brooks, Rockets
26th pick in 2007
I had to decide between Brooks and Nate Robinson here and went with Brooks given his fine performance in the playoffs this season (16.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 42% from 3PT) and how Robinson’s numbers are a little inflated playing for Mike D’Antoni. Brooks is not a natural point guard, but his sharpshooting is a good fit given Houston’s inside-out attack. He’s small, but he’s quick and is able to score at the rim when given some daylight. The Rockets feel good enough about Brooks to trade Rafer Alston away midseason, so you have to like his upside.

9. Kendrick Perkins, Celtics
27th pick in 2003 (drafted by the Grizzlies)
In the world of “big” guys, I also considered Boris Diaw here, but it’s tough to pass on a 6’10” 24-year-old who averaged 8.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game on a team loaded with vets. Without Kevin Garnett in the playoffs, the C’s needed Perkins to step up his game and he responded with 11.9 points, 11.6 boards and 2.6 blocks per contest. He also did a pretty good job on Dwight Howard, who had his worst numbers of the playoffs against the Celtics.

8. David Lee, Knicks
30th pick in 2005
Isiah Thomas couldn’t make a good trade to save his life, but he could spot talent in the draft. Lee has turned out to be a steal with the last pick in the 2005 draft. He’s an athletic lefty whose best traits are his hustle and smarts. In just his fourth season, Lee averaged 16.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game, which made him one of the most consistent double-double guys in the league. His stock is so high right now that the Knicks might be able to use him as trade bait in order to land Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire. Maybe they’d be better off sticking with Lee…

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Steve Nash wants to stay in Phoenix

Eliminated from the playoffs, it’s time for the Phoenix Suns to look forward to next season. For his part, Steve Nash says that he would like to stay

After missing the playoffs, Nash could decline an extension if he is unhappy with the offer or the off-season plan. He wants to play four more seasons.

“My first priority is to sit down and listen to Steve and (Suns Managing Partner) Robert (Sarver) and hear what their wish is and what their plan is for the team,” Nash said. “I can be a part of us revamping here.

“I’m under the impression they want to talk an extension, and I do, too. Hopefully we can find ourselves in a position where we can revamp and be back in the playoffs and hopefully be a contender. Hopefully I’ll be a part of the plan.”

Nash, 35, still is a special offensive player. If he maintains his fifth consecutive 50 percent field-goal shooting season in the final two games, Nash would become the first player in NBA history to record three seasons in which he shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line. Nash went from averaging 13.8 points under Porter to 19.1 once interim Alvin Gentry restored the team’s Nash-and-dash style. Nash’s assist-to-turnover ratio went from 2.6 -to 1 to 3.7 -to 1.

I have been critical of the Suns’ brass — namely Steve Kerr — all season long.

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Rudy Fernandez scores five points in three seconds

For the record, that was TWO buzzer beaters.

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