The Trail Blazers’ 50-year anniversary season is temporarily on pause as the NBA goes on hiatus to slow the spread of COVID-19. During that break, Blazer’s Edge is counting down the top 100 Blazers: players, executives, and other influencers who made the franchise what it is today.
No. 59 | Rudy Fernandez
Games Played with Blazers: 218 Regular Season, 18 Postseason
*PTS: 9.1 | AST: 2.2 | FG%: 39.4 | 3PT%: 36.4
*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland
Place in History: Statistics-wise, Rudy Fernandez didn’t end up being that special for the Trail Blazers. He came in during the Summer of 2008, with Brandon Roy firmly planted in his position. Fernandez’ three years in Portland would mirror Roy’s; he’d average minutes in the low-to-mid 20’s throughout. Coming off the bench for the Blazers was different than playing a key role for his native Spain in international play. He wasn’t a hub. Some nights he was barely a spoke. But Rudy could play.
The hype that preceded Fernandez’ arrival was substantial. He was a glamour player on the European market. He could shoot and he could dunk. His defense wasn’t near NBA-ready, but defense doesn’t show up on highlight reels. Fans in the Pacific Northwest and across Spain waited for his NBA debut.
The buzz subsided as Fernandez settled into his role. The three-pointer became his calling card early; he shot 40% from the arc on 5 attempts per game in his rookie year. He had a decent arsenal off the dribble and a nose for space. But Rudy’s true genius was lost on much of the crowd, revealed fully only when countryman Sergio Rodriguez was in the game alongside him. Rudy could move without the ball as well as any player the Blazers had fielded since Jim Paxson three decades earlier. Rudy saw. And when he saw, he was sneaky quick getting to the opening and had enough skill (and/or hops) to finish the play. Guarded, Fernadez probably wasn’t that special. Sneaking through defenses, he was amazing.
Through two of his three playoffs runs with the Blazers, Fernandez remained one of the few players opponents couldn’t account for. The Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns both scouted higher on the depth chart. Meanwhile Rudy plastered them with 42.1% and 47.8% shooting from the arc over six games, respectively. Portland players—even the best of them— haven’t always stepped up in the postseason. For Rudy, this wasn’t an issue.
When Rudy Gay couldn’t participate in the 2009 All-Star Slam Dunk Contest, fans voted in Fernandez as a replacement. You know Portland doesn’t have that kind of popular clout. His inclusion was a testimony to his international presence, which remains to this day.
Fernandez wouldn’t win that contest, or much else, returning to Spain after a single year with the Nuggets. In retrospect, he might qualify for the short list of “do-over” careers the Blazers wish they could take back. In the right time, with the right offensive philosophy, he could have been amazing. Instead, we’ll include publicity and overseas influence on this list of Top 100 Trail Blazers players and influencers, ranking Fernandez 59th.
Share your memories of Rudy below and stay with us as we continue the countdown to #1!