Translation of Rudy's interview with El Pais, Spain's main newspaper from yesterday.
Sometimes I Wish They Would Pass Me the Ball More
Robert Álvarez - 12/7/2008
Two months have passed to begin to shine in Portland and to be acclaimed in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Rudy Fernandez (Palma de Mallorca, 23) is enjoying himself in the Mecca of basketball and has become one of the sensations of an excellent batch of rookies that the NBA is enjoying this year. He isn’t a starter, but he is 5th on the Blazers in minutes played and he is usually one of the five on the floor in the final minutes of the game. He is on the cusp of becoming the first rookie to make at least one three pointer in each of his first 20 games. Last weekend in Boston, where he spoke by phone with El País, the streak was broken, but he still hopes to break the record for threes by a rookie in a season, held by Kerry Kittles with 158 in 1998, although Rudy is much more ambitious.
Q: After having played 21 games, what is your objective?
A: My approach is the same that I had at the beginning of the season: add minutes to my game, adapt to the league, and continue helping the team to get as far as possible. For now, I can’t complain.
Q: Do you think it’s possible for the Blazers to make the playoffs, although they haven’t been there since 2003?
A: Right now we have a good dynamic going. It’s important to continue with the humility that characterizes us. We are a young team and you can note this in the excitement and edge we put into the game. Thanks to that, we’ve had some excellent games.
Q: What is bothering you most on the court?
A: I don’t have the ball as much as I’d like. But it’s my first year here and I have to understand that.
Q: Has this made you change your game?
A: I have to look harder for my own shots or else rely too much on the three. But, truthfully, I can’t lay claim to anything because I didn’t think I was going to have as many minutes nor as many possibilities in my first year.
Q: Does it worry you that they may pigeon-hole you as purely a three-point shooter?
A: It’s true that here they’ve pigeon-holed me (Ed: the discussion here in regards to "they" is referring to fans’ perception, not the organization, as I read their conversation.) and that you end up getting used to a defined role. It doesn’t bother me because I know that I have other options: penetrate, assist, look for blocks...
Q: In this desire to find your shots and find your ideal place on the court, don’t you have to run more of the game?
A: At times I with they would pass to me more, but, I repeat, I have to get used to this League. At times they pass to me and I look for my shots, but the change in respect to how the game is played in La Penya (Ed: Which I believe to be the name of the court Juventut Badalona, Rudy’s Spanish team, plays) is radical. There we had more possession time and it was almost always me who took the key shots.
Q: Is there any aspect in which the NBA is more adapted than Europe to the development of your game right now?
A: The three point line, which is farther out (6.25 meters in Europe vs. 7.24 in the NBA), they give you more space, it opens up the field more. The interior players can move a little more, the spacing is larger and the shots, normally, are a little more comfortable than in Europe. The fact that the refs call the defensive three second rule also benefits the offensive game.
Q: After two months of competition, are you now clear on your role on the team and what the coach wants from you?
A: I’m clear on the role I should fill, but I know, and the coaches know also, that I can give more offensively. It’s as always, I have to know more deeply the league and its players.
Q: What are the specific things that you work on during practice with the Blazers?
A: Nothing in particular. You have to adapt to shooting threes because there’s more distance, I always do my shooting sessions to adapt my body to this situation. At times, I leave my shots short, something which was very rare when I was in the ACB (Ed: Spanish League).
Q: After your team broke the winning streak you said that you had to learn from mistakes. Which ones?
A: It’s not like we can find a lot, as we have had a good string of results, but at times we get hurried and lose balls stupidly. At times this is because of poor communication on the court. Now what I’m worried about is that we continue along the lines of the last games, that we put ourselves on the road to the playoffs and the higher the seed, the better. (Los Blazers are second in the Western Conference with 14 wins and 7 losses behind the L@kers, with 16 and 2).
Q: During the first games, you looked especially concentrated on defense. Is that true?
A: Defensively it has cost me a little more to adapt because I had to learn the strategy of our team and because I didn’t know many opponents, but I have always tried to be very concentrated on the game.
Q: Have they come to realize that you play better when your friend Sergio is on the floor?
A: I don’t see why they should wrong me with these statements. I feel comfortable with Sergio. We’ve played together many times, he knows me well, he knows how I look for the games... Right now I communicate best with him. Blake didn’t know me. Perhaps in a little while I’ll have a better understanding with Steve than with anybody.
Q: How has your relationship with the refs gone?
A: They’re really respectful with the player. Although the rookie is always the rookie, if you ask them questions, they always explain why they have blown the whistle. Against the Warriors they gave me a technical, but it was for a really hot moment during a really close game.
Q: Do you see it as a dream to win Rookie of the Year?
A: It’s certain that other rookies who play many more minutes than I will take it, like OJ Mayo (Memphis) or Derrick Rose (Chicago), I don’t obsess over it.
Q: What player has impressed you the most?
A: Lebron James
Q: Who has been the hardest to defend?
Q: Who do you admire most?
A: Kobe Bryant
Q: What would you emphasize about your teammates Brandon Roy & Greg Oden?
A: For Roy, his capacity to penetrate, play and shoot with both hands. He is a superstar. Oden is a beast.
Q: The other day you were cheered in New York. This must have been very gratifying.
A: It’s an honor that they shout your name like that, like if you were in Spain or if I was playing in front of my fans in Portland. Also, the same thing happened in Washington. There were a lot of Spanish people who came to the game and cheered me on, and also Americans who are getting to know me more each time. It’s very gratifying.