We got another good, long look at Rudy Fernandez against China last night. Here's the observation buffet:
--I didn't get to see the first quarter at all. I don't know if the televised it on another channel or didn't televise the game until the second quarter, but my Tivo didn't pick it up.
--The most impressive aspect of Rudy's game--and probably THE game overall--was the way he took over when the Spanish made their comeback in the fourth. Those two drives against Yao Ming were priceless. He picked that team up and carried them on his back. Others would come along and add to the win but Rudy did it first. Brilliant. You could tell how much the coach was relying on him as well by the minutes he got.
--For the most part Rudy drove under control tonight and got deeper to the cup. This showcased him a lot better. I like how he can drive either side of the lane.
--I still drool over how well Rudy moves without the ball no matter how many cuts I see him make. If the other Blazers will recognize the potential there and take care to get him the ball...oh boy. This showcases his quickness more than any other aspect of the game.
--When the floor is open, Rudy is at his best. He takes advantage of the space the other team leaves.
--Things get a little more sticky when things get congested. This showed up in his passing game tonight. When there's a lane he feeds the ball extremely well. But he was also making passes that didn't fly in the international game, let alone the NBA. In the NBA you cannot throw it across the lane, over the lane, or into the lane if the pass is soft or into heavy traffic. Applause for the unselfishness, but the crisp, straight tosses are the way to go.
--There's a difference in Rudy's whole game when things are clicking for him offensively (or at least energy-wise, which comes out offensively) and when they're not. Sometimes you're just begging for him to block out or go for a rebound...move...do something besides watch when he doesn't have the ball. Then all of a sudden he gets on a roll and his energy spills over into rebounding and defense as well. His drives sparked him tonight and he took it into overdrive. He plays much better when the spring is in his step. One of the adjustments he'll need to make is gearing up and being that energy guy right away and keeping it there, as he won't get much time to ebb and flow coming off the bench.
--This is critical to his defense. There's a big difference between the Rudy who moves his feet and makes plays and the Rudy who shows up late and/or takes a step and then waves at the ball with his arms.
--Overall I thought Rudy dealt with picks better tonight.
--Again we saw that Rudy's best halfcourt defense is the zone. Other than that, he's a lot better when you allow him to roam the passing lanes and try to create chaos than he is when you stick him on someone one-on-one and ask him to control them. Fortunately he'll have a couple things going for him coming to Portland. The Blazers have played a lot of zone under Nate McMillan. Plus Greg Oden should make a nice mop-up guy if and when Rudy gets on the wrong side of his man or a play.
This showing was even better than the first. I am excited to see how he responds against Team USA and whether he'll consider it a challenge to step up. If he can move consistently without the ball and if Spain feeds him the Americans could have a hard time keeping up.