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Portland Trailblazers 2011 Expectations: Rudy Fernandez

Blazers Edge has been running an interesting breakdown of the expectations from each of the team members of the 2010-2011 roster. Today’s was about Rudy Fernandez.

The relationship between third year guard Rudy Fernandez and the Portland Trailblazers has been a complicated one. He was drafted while Kevin Pritchard was still General Manager, and they obtained him only after Phoenix agreed to send him to Portland for $3 million dollars.

At the conclusion of his rookie year in 2008-2009 he set a new NBA record for the most three point shots made by a rookie. Expectations were risen, but Fernandez has been at a position that is log jammed with Brandon Roy ahead of him, and faces further competition from the recently signed Wesley Matthews. He demanded a trade this summer, which resulted in a fine of $25,000 from the NBA head office for public statements that were detrimental to the NBA, but now, with training camp less than two weeks away, seems to have accepted that he will be with the team for at least one more year, as we learned from a translation by HoopsHype of an interview that Fernandez granted recently with the Spanish newspaper La Marca.

While some Trailblazer fans have quietly jumped off of the Fernandez bandwagon, urging the team to meet Fernandez’s request to be traded, I have remained hopeful that Fernandez’s skills can be made a part of Coach Macmillan’s new approach this season. I really think that Fernandez’s back injury last year, which kept him out for the first couple of months of the season made it impossible for Rudy to get in a groove with the team before all kinds of chaos went down with the season ending injuries of Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla that occurred in December 2009. Had Fernandez opened the season with them, I think that he would have been able to sink more of his three point shots because the middle of the lane would have attracted more of the defenders attention with Oden, and Pryzbilla.

It seems to me that it will be likely that Marcus Camby will open the season starting at center, at least for the first couple of weeks, until Oden is ready to go at full speed and can handle up to 30 minutes per game. Houston reported that they will only play Yao Ming a maximum of 25 minutes per game during the regular season. I expect Portland to use a similar strategy for getting Oden safely through the season. Both of these developments should help Rudy’s game. Even though Elliot Williams and Jerryd Bayless can also be competitors for his position, neither of these player’s game benefits from a clogged lane. Rudy will be called upon in three point situations where we need to stretch the court. This could still allow him to keep his nearly 10 points per game average, and lead him back to steals on the perimeter.

The question that remains for me, is whether not, after all that has happened this offseason with the trade demands, will the coaching staff trust putting Fernandez in the game for any regular rotation minutes of 20 minutes or more, in order to capitalize on him, in what will be the final year of his rookie contract. After this season, I expect that if Fernandez was able to increase his perceived value in the NBA that he will sign with another team for far more than the rookie contract allowed per year, or just return to Europe where he can earn way more than he will ever be able to earn in the NBA. Plus, there is the likely lockout next season with the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the owners and the players association. If the owners prevail, whether there is a lockout or not, would likely mean not much more money for Fernandez, unless he really wows people in the NBA this year.

What do you think? Do you think Rudy Fernandez will stick around in the NBA for a second contract beginning in the 2011-2012 season? Or do you think he returns to Europe no matter what happens during this season?