Though he's a distant second to Chris Paul, plenty of people have been asking questions about Rudy Fernandez over the last month as well. I'm going to do the same thing that I did with yesterday's mailbag, condensing various lengthy questions into simple general ones that more or less cover them all.
Does Rudy Fernandez have a role on this team anymore?
There's no doubt in my mind Rudy could still play a significant role for the Blazers. Right now he's the victim of an insidious phenomenon that cycles through popular perception seemingly each time Portland picks up an exciting young player. When he played well in the Summer Olympics people vastly overrated his potential impact on the team and the league. Folks thought he could do everything! He was supposed to dunk on Dwight Howard every game, lead the league in shooting, run the break, revolutionize the halfcourt offense with his passing. He rebounded! He defended! He sliced, he diced, he made julienne fries! In reality Rudy does a few things extremely well. Given the opportunity to emphasize his skills he could shine. But he was not, and is not, capable of doing all of the things attributed to him. Now that he's hit the near-inevitable speed bump and his career has shifted into neutral he can't do anything. The sudden dearth of praise is just as unwarranted as the original flood of praise was.
Rudy Fernandez is an accomplished outside shooter with good court vision and a knack for the stylish play. He's a great teammate to have on the offensive end. Those qualities could still prove valuable to an NBA team, even the Blazers. Shooting never, ever goes out of style. If Portland can't find an acceptable offer for him he's going to remain a Blazer and he's going to be encourage to produce as a Blazer in whatever role he can grab. Having Rudy on the roster doesn't hurt this team a bit.
That said, Rudy is hoping not to be a Blazer and the Blazers are going to do everything reasonable to accommodate that wish because they weren't thrilled with his play last year either. The Wesley Matthews signing ate a big hole in Rudy's role and minutes. Portland is planning for him not to be here. He'll only suit up for this team if everything falls through on the trade/buyout front. Rudy could find a place on this team but he probably won't.
Has Rudy been misused by Coach McMillan?
That depends on your point of view. Rudy would certainly say so, as would his agent and many of his fans. He's not been able to show his gifts to their fullest extent. He's been legitimately position- and system-locked though. Beating out Brandon Roy is an unrealistic expectation. His minutes are limited to reserve shooting guard and point guard. He can't defend well and he doesn't have any serious penetration off of the dribble. Those hamper his point guard possibilities. He manned the shooting guard spot well enough but Jerryd Bayless developed more facets to his game while Rudy's game stalled, thus Bayless, at least temporarily, overtook him for the third guard position last season. The temporary designation was removed when Fernandez fell apart at the seams, failing to produce even in his strongest areas. Whatever claim Rudy had to being slighted evaporated with his poor performances. His all-around game simply isn't good enough to give him time when he's not on.
To be fair, the Blazers do not play a style of offense conducive to Rudy's strengths. Some have speculated that system should be changed. If so, it has to be changed for a reason stronger than Rudy's needs alone. It's easy to speculate that everyone would do better in a motion offense but we haven't seen its effects on the games of Roy, Aldridge, Oden, and the like. The Blazers are forced to play to their strengths over Rudy's.
What are the trade prospects for Fernandez?
They're limited if he's considered in isolation. It's not a matter of interest as much as contract. Fernandez makes $1.25 million this year. There aren't any $1.25 million players available with the promise and skills that Rudy brings to the table. Everybody else on rookie scale is either beyond Rudy's capacity to net or below Portland's interest level. That leaves Fernandez at the mercy of whatever other trades he can be thrown into. Fortunately he could be a nice throw-in piece either because of his talent (again, shooting doesn't go out of style) or because he could easily be bought out or cut.
What is the buyout process like?
Our good friend Storyteller and I have both been going through this and it appears to be a simple matter of the Blazers and Fernandez agreeing to a buyout and a European team cutting Paul Allen a check as incentive. The terms of the buyout are negotiable. Portland could buy out Rudy's contract for the full amount or anything less down to zero dollars. The Blazers would be cap-obligated for whatever that agreed-upon amount turned out to be. From a cap standpoint, then, the damage of a buyout would range from negligible to non-existent. With his steel-trap mind Storyteller remembered Vassilis Spanoulis who agreed to a buyout from the Spurs in 2007 in order to return to his native Greece. His new team simply paid the Spurs $1.6 million and Spanoulis was a free man. As far as we can ascertain there is no language in the CBA limiting the amount or terms of a buyout from a non-league team to an NBA team.
What would the Blazers take?
It's always tricky to read minds (and the wind), but the best guess is that they're looking for the same first-round pick they spent on Rudy originally in order for another NBA team to pry him away. Any combo trade would be dependent on the other players more than Rudy himself but they'd have zero qualms about throwing him into a nice deal. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to a buyout. Would the $3 million that Paul Allen spent to get Rudy originally suffice? Portland has been loathe to let go of assets in recent years. Simply resetting to zero might make it seem like they made a mistake. Ideally they'd like to gain ground in any exchange involving Fernandez. Reality may set in about the likelihood of that happening. If Fernandez isn't moved by the start of the season it's quite possible that a Euro team could reach Paul Allen's (presumably shrinking) magic number. But the Blazers will almost certainly follow their pattern of holding firm until they perceive the deal to be right. There's no way they'll give him away when all they have to endure is a million and change plus a few tantrums to keep him.
Can Rudy force a move?
Not a chance. He has less leverage than a cricket with a toothpick. The only recourse he has is holding out...simply not showing up. But if he were to do that the Blazers would be within their rights to suspend him without pay. His already-low salary has been eaten away by the buyout he's paying to DKV Joventut, which originally ran through 2011. It's unlikely that an extended run without money would look appealing to him under these circumstances. The Blazers have him over a barrel in every way possible. They don't even need him that badly on the court right now. Perhaps you can see the reason he (possibly at the behest of his management team) has been screaming so loudly in the press overseas. A: It's the only recourse he has. B: Things have not gone well for Mr. Fernandez and he's probably cursing the heavens every night that he's stuck in this position when he could have been a major, well-paid star in Europe. You'd scream too if you were in his position.
Will Rudy be moved?
I'd say there's a 90% chance that Fernandez is moved before the trade deadline. The team will try to make it happen before the summer is out but they may get stonewalled. The situation won't be pleasant if he returns, though. Trades are going to look even more attractive after a couple months of him in the locker room and his agent blitzing the press about his indentured servitude.
More questions and answers ahead. You can submit yours to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please mark them "Mailbag" so I know what's up.