A farewell letter to Andre Miller and Rudy Fernandez
Here in Portland, we have had a few days to think and discuss how the Trail Blazers did during the 2011 NBA Draft. And although the threat of the looming lockout hung over the Draft all night long on Thursday, it’s become clear that little teams want to actually trade players fearing all the financial difficulty and the unknown of no basketball next season and complicated contract scenarios that make my head spin.
The Blazers were one of the few teams to make a deal involving players and it wasn’t such a blockbuster trade (like the Gerald Wallace trade in February) that we thought it would be. We knew this deal was coming for a long time as the Blazers knew they needed a point guard with fresher legs first and foremost. Andre Miller, who is Mr. Iron Man in the NBA and has been one of the most consistent and reliable players on the floor was getting older. That’s just one of the major factors. The another is the attractiveness of his contract that was going to expire anyway. Considering Miller’s veteran track record and leadership, he was the first piece to be packaged in a deal with anyone that bit the line.
At first a long time ago, rumors and debates swirled about the possibly of wither or not to deal Miller for the likes of Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Tony Parker. One of those guys is an NBA Champion. The other is the same age as Miller but has had some success and is a star. One is considered one of the best point guards in the game but will be looking to move to New York anyway in 2012 so that doesn’t matter now. The trade deadline in February came and went as Miller stayed put to steer Portland into their third straight playoff appearance.
On Draft night, the Blazers conducted a three team trade that saw the departure of Miller to Denver in exchange for their point guard Raymond Felton. The move isn’t exactly a jump-for-joy trade as a Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook or Rajon Rondo would’ve been. The Blazers answered the need of getting younger as Felton is 26 and manages around the same statistical numbers as Miller, but is only more reliable on the offensive end and shoots the three better. The downside with Felton is we still haven’t resolved the more needed veteran leadership as Miller has portrayed. Felton has only seen nine playoff games and like Miller, both have never made it past the first round in their careers.
From what we’ve heard, Felton can execute the pick and roll better with LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace and (should I say?) Greg Oden in the low post. As noted before, Felton would be more in tune scoring points as well and will take more shots from deep. He is stronger, quicker and given the right opportunity and spacing can make something great with the ball in his hands. What gets to me is plain experience. Felton is no Miller. Miller deserves to be in a class by himself in someone who wants to win so badly and is so damn smart when the time comes. It’s difficult to understand how someone so crafty and seemingly unbreakable has had such disappointment in the postseason for all these years. It’s a shame that his time here as come to an end but as long as he is returning to Denver in which he used to play for, he will always be remembered as one of Portland’s best point guards.
Who could forget his 52-point explosion against the Mavericks in Dallas two years ago that is still talked about today? Who could forget that famous alley loop pass from in bounds to a soaring Nic Batum that sealed in the game winner against San Antonio back in March? Not to mention all the countless hundreds of alley oop passes that we’re conducted by Miller during his time here. He wasn’t much of a talker, kept to himself and appeared shy around cameras; only focused on the game itself and what he could do to ensure a Blazers victory. To Andre Miller, I say thank you.
To Rudy Fernandez,
I’m sorry to say but our reaction to your departure was far more different from Miller’s. As word got out that Portland finally traded him after months of threats and complaining, followed by a sense of rebirth and new-found life only to be followed by a lackluster season and a terrible postseason performance, I think Portland and Fernandez were both relieved. What looked like a very bright future after a terrific rookie season in which he set an all-time rookie record for three pointers, everything fell flat and never recovered.
On the court he seemed troubled, uninterested and barely took any shots. He turned into a ghost during the first round series against Phoenix and when people asked “why?” he complained he was homesick and put pressure on the Blazers to trade him either to another team who has an airport that flies to Spain or release him so he could go back and play Spanish basketball. Fernandez was lonely in Portland and just wanted out. No matter that thousands of young girls screamed his name at the Rose Garden and held up signs pleading marriage or stating that she loves Rudy more. It didn’t matter that thousands of shirts with I ❤ RUDY were selling like hot cakes and people waited hours in line to see him in person (I one of them).
Fernandez just wanted to go home. But the Blazers were persistent on keeping him for his shooting ability. Things cooled down when Patty Mills came to Fernandez to be a friend. He too is an international player and was looking for a friend. They joked together and made fun of each other, joking about Fernandez’s poor eyesight led to the crazed phenomenon of the Three Goggles.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some highlight plays this season, some fancy passes here and some dunks here, but the 2010-11 season was another disappointment for Portland and for Rudy. Countless times we were asking if this was the game that he was finally going to step it up and bring his game. A three here and an assist there and it was right back to the bench as most games he never broke the 5-point mark and made one or two threes out of seven. And just like the Phoenix series, Fernandez shut himself down and failed to make anything when it counted during the first round against Dallas.
I hope that the change of scenery and a new team will get Rudy his confidence back. It’s such a shame to see someone with such promise not prosper in a team that is not designed for his skills. The Mavericks are a good fit for Fernandez as they are stock piled with three-point shooters and will likely thrive in the pace that coach Rick Carlisle uses. Not to mention that he can befriend J.J. Barea and can help spread the floor with Jason Terry.
Things just didn’t work out and I’m displeased to see you go Rudy but as long as you’re happy, that’s all that really matters to me.
photos courtesy of nba.com/blazers