“I just want to explain to everybody what I think and feel and that I could sacrifice my career with the NBA.”
“The only thing I’m not prepared for is if I’m told, ‘We want you to stay anyway.”
“I’m sure then the next season would be a repetition of the previous one, and what will the fans say then?”
“How could you possibly rely on a player who wants to leave?”
“For the past two years I’ve been going on the court and acting like a robot.”
“Big money is obviously good, but I am prepared to make less. The size of my salary doesn’t mean that much for me. The main thing is to play with a spark.”
“Trust me, I really am prepared to leave NBA. It certainly does not mean that I’m dying to go to Europe. I’m just ready.”
Sound familiar? It is the cry of a certain European player that has not yet grasped the concept of being a part of a team. A European player that won’t accept his role because he’s not the man. It is sad to see. We have seen it in reports all this week in which Rudy Fernandez is ready to take fine/suspension from the NBA for violating his terms of his contract. He has grown tired, bored, and weary of playing in NBA. He doesn’t feel wanted. But good news, Portland fans. None of those quotes above are from Rudy. They are from another formerly disgruntled European NBA player: Andrei Kirilenko.
Portland, take heart, for Jazz fans have been through this painful annoying process. Think, you didn’t even have to endure it with your highest paid player, Brandon Roy. Just think of the implications of Roy saying he would throw his contract away just to play for CSKA Moscow. The Utah Jazz did. Not only that Kirilenko wouldn’t accept his new role on the team when two bigger dogs, Williams and Boozer, burst on the scene. He would not accept a demotion so he sought to go where he would still be the big dog: Russia. Sound familiar, Portland?
Just like Portland, the Jazz had to deal with all the annoying media attention that a ROLE player can cause. Trade scenarios were brought up on every occasion. Jazz fans had to hear the trade of Marion for Kirilenko a million times a day just as Portland fans are hearing Wilson Chandler for Rudy Fernandez. Not only that but Kirilenko’s diva episode came right after the biggest success in the Jazz organization since the Stockton/Malone days. The Jazz had just made it to the 2007 Western Conference finals only 3 months before Kirilenko found another reason to cry. At least Portland is not dealing with this whole fiasco after an amazing run in the playoffs.
Finally, Portland, take heart that the Jazz have set an amazing precedent for you. The Jazz said no. That’s right, they said no to Kirilenko’s demands. They said no to Russia. They said no to him leaving for CSKA Moscow. They said no to crying. Most importantly, they worked it out like adults and talked it out. It seems like Nate McMillan has even begun reaching out to Rudy. Just imagine what Jerry Sloan would do in place of McMillan. (Somehow I have the feeling it would involve a John Deere and some sprints) Just saying.
What’s the amazing part about Kirilenko’s so called holdout? Kirilenko, even after all his whining, his complaining, and threats to leave the Utah Jazz, reported to camp. On time. So while Rudy is crying now and planning his exit strategy there is a silver lining. Rudy is learning the hard way that the NBA is no Euro-ball. This is where the big boys play and for a reason. Rudy will come back to camp because wants to play ball. At least I hope so. It would send a message that the team is bigger than his minutes. The team is better because of his contributions no matter how big or how small. The sooner Rudy learns this the sooner he’ll be a better NBA player. How do I know? Because, Portland, Utah’s been there. Maybe Portland could skip out on its yearly tradition of front-loaded deals to Utah’s Free Agents this year as a thank you.