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Yesterday we got to sit down with Maunu Anhava, a reporter for the Finnish News Agency (officially abbreviated the STT, somewhat equivalent to our AP). Maunu is in Las Vegas covering Petteri Koponen and his Summer League progress. He has followed Petteri, and to a lesser extent Rudy Fernandez, as they played in Europe.

Maunu would be the first to point out that he is a journalist, not a coach or scout. However since he has seen these guys more than all the rest of us combined, getting his observations seemed like a good idea.

Blazersedge: Let’s start out with Petteri Koponen. How is he viewed in Finland?

He’s famous…the most well-known basketball player in the country. Young people enjoy him. Basketball is not a major sport in Finland compared to ice hockey and soccer. Winter sports get more publicity. But basketball is becoming bigger and more important due to Petteri’s success. He was voted the best young athlete in Finland last year. If he made the NBA people who watched sports in Finland would be quite enthusiastic.

Blazersedge: Tell us a little bit about Petteri’s background.

He went from being an unknown to a NBA draft pick in less than a year. At the beginning of summer in 2006 Petteri was just another player on the Junior National team. He got invited to the National team. Then he became a starter. At the beginning of 2007 he went to the Nike Hoop Summit. He performed well there and was drafted. Now he’s a huge success and well-known. The media hype in Finland has grown since he’s been drafted. Last season everyone paid more attention to him. Newspapers even wrote stories about his military service and such.

Blazersedge: Describe Petteri’s game for us.

He’s like an old-school point guard. He prefers to pass first, shoot second. He’s big for a point guard. He has size. He is not flashy but has solid fundamentals and a high basketball IQ. He is a solid, all-around player. He does not have too many weaknesses. Last season he was the best player in the Finnish league and won the MVP of that league. He played on a good team with other National team players the last two years and won championships.

Blazersedge: How would you assess his game here so far?

He’s had to look for own shot more. He’s at his best when he sets other people up. There are not too many scoring options for Portland in Summer League this year and he has to look for his shot.

Blazersedge: What about Petteri would most surprise or please Portland fans?

Even though he has been successful, he’s down to earth. He’s just a calm, friendly, nice guy.

Blazersedge: What is his personality on the court?

He is a leader on the floor in Finland. It’s not typical of him to complain to referees as we saw earlier. He just concentrates on playing. He leaves it all out on the floor.

Blazersedge: What is the most impressive thing about Petteri in your view?

So far every time he’s been put into a more challenging situation he has responded well. People doubted if he could play on the National team at age 18. It was the same with the Nike Hoop Summit against top U.S. players. Every time he’s been challenged he has responded.

Blazersedge: Let’s switch over to Portland’s other European import this season, Rudy Fernandez. You’ve had the chance to see him play a little, which is far more than most Portland fans have done. What are your impressions?

I haven’t seen him as much as I’ve seen Petteri. He’s a far more proven player though. He played for the Spanish National team and in a very good league in Spain. He’s a versatile, all-around offensive player. He can shoot well from distance and also take it to the hole. He’s a solid, all-around player.

Blazersedge: What are Rudy’s prospects in the NBA?

He should be able to contribute right away for Portland. He’s that good. He might be the best shooting guard in Europe.

Blazersedge: Any weaknesses?

I assume it might take time for him to adjust to the physicality of the NBA, especially when defending.

Blazersedge:  What is his most striking asset?

He can really go on a tear. He might light it up from long range for long periods of time.

Blazersedge:  Compare European basketball with the USA.

The best players in the world play for the NBA. But a lot of players in Europe could play in the NBA also. The NBA game is different, more 1-on-1. In Europe the focus is more on the team.

Blazersedge:  Which is more popular in Europe?

For highlights, the NBA. But it seems like top European clubs play better as a team.

Blazersedge:  Which league is better?

The NBA is still better but European players have caught up during last few years.

Thanks to Maunu Anhava for giving us a peek at the Blazers’ (potential) newest acquisitions.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)