In front of his mother, Katy Brown, Nate McMillan, Chris Bowles, and approximately 50 white men, Rudy Fernandez, Spanish Guard, was presented to the media today inside the Rose Garden's Courtside Club. Sitting on stage left to right were Rudy's agent/translator Gerrard (a dead ringer for Sean Hannity), Rudy, Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan. Reading their emotions from left to right: overjoyed, exhausted, overjoyed, somewhat bored.
My first impressions of Rudy were: he looks tired, he looks a bit nervous, he has a very wicked sense of humor, and the guy is anxious to let his play do the talking. Judging solely on his mannerisms and non-verbals, he should fit in well with his teammates, who generally maintain low-key public profiles.
Kevin Pritchard did not bother to hide his feeling of accomplishment, and who could blame him. In his words, today marked the end of a 5 year courtship and he "couldn't be more thrilled." KP came across like a father on Christmas afternoon: having successfully made a happy day for everyone else, he was sitting back in his barcalounger, looking around at all the presents, feeling content. One got the sense that today might stand as a milestone that we will look back on in 2 or 3 years. The line of videocameras, the endless flashes, the signature "pose with the jersey" moment, coupled with the news that hundreds of fans had met Rudy at the airport. It was a victory that won't show up on our record but is worth recording nevertheless.
And KP was careful to dot the i on this point. "The organization got Rudy," he stressed, "I can't tell you that would have happened in the past." With that comment, KP perhaps revealed a little about his own expectations for the team.
Here are a few more choice cuts from KP...
"His resume speaks for itself."
"Bill Schonely told me 'Rip City is back' and I couldn't agree more."
As for Rudy, he said all the right things, with a smile on his face, and, although he did not quite have the rockstar moxie that I was expecting, one thing was clear: this dude is a baller. He wants to get out and run. Europeans have come a long way.
Asked what aspect of his game he was most proud of, "Defense."
Asked about the crowd at the airport, "I can't believe it . 200 people saying 'Rudy! Rudy!' It's incredible. It's a good surprise. I said, 'I'll go to practice right now."
Asked what he will miss leaving Spain, "My family and friends, the food."
And then, in a moment that might not make the evening news but that should remain in every Blazers fan's heart, when asked what he thought about playing against Kobe and the rest of team USA, he said through his translator, "The first thought is respect, the second thought is I'm going to kick their ass."
Nate, who was quiet throughout much of the press conference, quickly piped up, "I like that." Nate then went on to tell a story about a reporter asking Rudy why he put "Rudy" on the back of his jersey instead of "Fernandez." Rudy replied that it was the name on the front of the jersey that mattered. Nate was clearly impressed by this answer.
Nate, subdued and focussed, then discussed the challenge of adding Oden and Bayless to the lineup, in addition to Rudy. He also squashed any question about his difficulty communicating with Rudy, stating his instructions to Rudy as, "Defend. Put it in the basket."
I left today's press conference with one feeling: this was big league. Rudy wasn't the only baller here. KP. Nate. Tom Penn, who sat relaxed in the second row with a huge smile on his face. Ballers, shot-callers, 20 inch blades on the impalas. On the court, the Blazers seem poised to run with the big boys. If today's press conference was any indication, they've got the behind-the-scenes organizational structure and support to make that a reality.
UPDATE: Here's video from Rudy's airport arrival if you haven't seen it already on Oregonlive.com. Be sure to check out podcast maestro Gavin Dawson in the Bill Walton throwback.
|Portland welcomes Rudy Fernandez|
UPDATE 2: Now, with blurry pictures above.
UPDATE 3: Another Hola!, this one from Ezra at the Portland Mercury. (His digital camera > my digital camera)
UPDATE 4: Unbelievable work from Brian Hendrickson. He has not-one-not-two-but-three Rudy-related posts up on Blazer Banter, including a full transcript of today's press conference. Now that is what I'm talking about.
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)