Take Heart, Portland, Utah’s Been There.

August 20th, 2010 | by Mychal

“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.

Rudy, Andrei already tried it.

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.

It's a long walk to Spain, Rudy, filled with fines and suspensions....

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.

Mychal

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11 Comments

  1. Arup says:

    “It is the cry of a European player that has not yet grasped the concept of being a part of a team.” It’s asinine statements such as this that made me skip the rest of your article… There are 2 sides to every story and you make no attempt to balance things- everyone is on record saying that Jerry Sloan and Nate McMillan are not easy to play for… and btw Brandon Roy did gripe about his role when Andre Miller came on as PG and took the ball out of his hands.
    And FYI the European players seem to have as good an idea of ‘team’ and playing within a system- it’s when they come to the US for lower salaries so that they can compete with the best, but told to wait in a corner while some uber-athletic but selfish American ‘superstar’ massages the ball that they have some sort of a reaction. Grow up!

    • Mychal Lowman says:

      I did not mean “It is the cry of a European player that has not yet grasped the concept of being a part of a team.” as a blanketed statement to include all European players. That was put in referring to the quotes of Andrei Kirilenko a couple years prior. I do agree most European players do get the team concept. I was referring to Andrei not getting it when he was the highest paid player on the Utah Jazz. But good points made.

  2. Arup says:

    fair enough… though then you could just as easily take the word European out of it and just talk about the Kirilenko experience and say the Blazers could learn from that. These ‘soft, spoiled European’ cliches annoy me a little because I think equating physical strength and superior athleticism with being ‘tough’ is an annoying habit that many Americans fall prey too.
    I am Indian and have no particular love or hate for either Americans or Europeans.. but playing up the European connection tends to detract from the point you are making about teams not blinking when players grumble about their role/playing time/happiness.

  3. BlazerTom says:

    One significant difference is that Kirilenko was on a max contract, where as Rudy is on a late first round pick rookie deal. It took him the first two years to make back the money he paid in his buyout.

    I am not justifying Rudy’s position, just pointing out that there is a huge difference in money motivation between the two players.

  4. itsacon says:

    Hey, Arup, big up for what you’ve written. I’m a DIE HARD Jazz fan from Europe, and this article stabbed my back a bit. Now I don’t mean to say AK and Rudy are saying all the right things etc., but the author clearly thinks European players are sissies, and American players are big boys. Well, I will agree to that once you come to world sports event (I mean in team sports, you seem to be fair in individual) NOT pumped up with steroids and you win anyway. I wonder what sort of an earthquake would have happened in the U.S. of A. if the Redeem Team lost to Spain in Beijing; somehow the European wussies only came short by eleven points, having dropped 107 in 40 minutes on D-Wade, LeBron, Kobe and the likes.

    To make my entry a bit lighter, I’ll say that Spain would surely be in much more trouble had Coach K played Deron more:).

    Go Jazz.

  5. Colby says:

    And Portland also know that, Not only did Kirlenko go from whining about wanting to leave Utah and doing hat rudy is doing now….to begging to be in a Jazz uniform for the rest of his lie and saying he will take less money to do it. Hang in there and stay tough. It scared us in Utah and Andrei learned a big lesson and learned loyalty. Hopefully Rudy can too.
    Go Jazz!

  6. Kaanyr says:

    As a Blazer fan my main issue with Rudy is that he didn’t adjust. There is no more standing and waiting in the Blazer’s offense than there is in the Spurs and Ginobili who yes I know isnt European but still had to make adjustments to a new style of hoops was able to make those adjustments. He became a better slasher and a more consistent defender. Gasol has to spend quite a bit of time watching Kobe take shots but he didn’t complain but once and that wasnt to the media then he adjusted. Rudy plays good defense every four games. I remember he had a great game defensively against Jason Terry then followed it up with mediocre defense for the rest of the week. If he brought consistent defense, and developed a few moves like Latrell Sprewell did in his first few years he would be getting 25-30 minns a game.

  7. James Donaldson says:

    Nate isn’t THAT hard to play for. Rudy is just part of a roster where there are too many players at similar positions. Blame Kevin Pritchard for that. Rudy wants a role that his skills frankly aren’t suited for: a primary ball-handler and creator. Unfortunately, Rudy has an undeveloped left hand, has a hard time taking his man off the dribble, and over-handles the ball. He struggled this last season because he didn’t put the work in to get better. That’s what happens when you expect things to just be handed to you. McMillan will give players more leash when they earn it and that’s how it should be. Maybe Rudy would do better under a coach like Alvin Gentry (although I think Rudy was overrated to begin with, so I don’t see him getting that much better) but until then he should grow up, start working harder and earning what he wants out of professional basketball.

  8. MusicCityBlazer says:

    Rudy has been given every opportunity to succeed in the NBA. His rookie year he was given the sixth man role, a spark off the bench who could knock down threes and come off of back picks and slash to the hoop. This year he wanted a bigger role and was given that when Brandon got hurt. His reaction was to stand in the shadows and wait for spot up threes or dribble around at the top of the key with his head down and then pass it out. His has consistently shown an ability to have a lack of ability to create his own shot, which is a necessary attribute in NBA basketball (a whole lot of iso and pick and rolls–the obvious exception being in Utah) but not necessarily Euro (much more passing and ball movement). In this sense, Rudy has not adjusted, which is very dissapointing.

  9. thevupster777 says:

    In my opinion, Euro players rely more on the mental aspects of basketball than on the physical aspects. Strength is not as important in Euro ball than in the NBA.

    Rudy has shown no ability to drive effectively and finish with contact. That’s an important skill for NBA guards to have. He does not do that. No matter how good Rudy was in Euro-league, as far as the NBA and Blazers are concerned, he is a role-player, a three-point shooting specialist. He is not a superstar. He has to earn that title.

    Also, Nate’s offensive system should be designed so that it’s best for the core players. Rudy is not a core player. He is a roleplayer. As a roleplayer, it’s his job to use adapt to the offensive system, simple as that. Whatever Nate’s faults are, it’s unacceptable to pin this on Nate.

  10. Blazeon says:

    The crazy thing is that Rudy was getting 25 mins a game last year while he was playing like crap. I can understand a guy like Bayless getting a little disillusioned (which he keeps to himself and uses as motivation), but Rudy has absolutely no basis to complain. He has been given every opportunity to carve out a significant role and instead crumbles under the pressure (and under Trevor Ariza).

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