Monday, April 14, 2008

Rudy Fernandez: 'I think that in a final, there is no such thing as pain'

You may or may not have heard that Rudy Fernandez's current team, DKV Joventut, defeated another Spanish team, Akasvayu Girona, 79-54 in the finals of the ULEB Cup. The win gave Joventut their second tourney win of year, having already taken the Copa Del Rey back in February. The ULEB title was the first ever for DKV Joventut.

Fernandez was named the MVP of the tournament (he was also the MVP of the Copa Del Rey) despite having a sub-par game (at least by his standards) in the final due to a shoulder injury. All of this is fine and good from a Blazer fan perspective, but Rudy's remarks and actions after the game are what should really send fans of the Red and Black to the moon.
At one point in the third quarter, Fernandez got fouled going to the basked and doubled over in pain. Nonetheless, he went to the foul line, swished both free throws, and then came back on the next possession to hit a triple. Akasvayu never recovered.

"I think that in a final, there is no such thing as pain," Fernandez said afterward.

Based on his overall performance in the tournament, after having scored 27 points in the semifinal, Fernandez was voted the MVP. When he received the trophy, however, he ran straight over and handed it to center Jerome Moiso, who had anchored Jovenut's defense all game.

"For me and for everyone, I am sure, Jerome Moiso has been the most determinant player tonight, not only on offense, but on defense," Fernandez explained afterwards. "He stood up to Marc Gasol, one of the top centers in Europe. I just wanted to give him thanks for all that he did in this game to make sure we won. I think he deserved it."

His coach said the gesture told a lot about Fernandez, a reigning world champion for Spain whose individual skills usally keep all eyes on him every time he's on the court. He, however, was keeping his eyes on his teammate, Moiso.

"I imagine that Rudy was thinking he has too many MVP awards," Garcia Reneses joked. "But I think it was a great gesture. This is a team sport, even when we know that people sometimes try to convert it into an individual one, talking about the success of Rudy, the success of Ricky, of Moiso or of Aito. And that's not true. It's always the success of the team, even though someone might be more visible on a given day. Rudy taking the MVP trophy to Moiso is a great gesture. As a friend said to me recently, some players play for the name on the back of their jersey, and some play on the name on the front. That gesture of Rudy's showed that for all the ambition he has, he knows to be always with the team."

That's like something out of a movie. Rudy, coming off the bench, ends up playing a team-high 26.5 minutes, scores 13 points, grabs seven rebounds, nabs three steals, dishes out two assists and gets a block, all with a bum shoulder. Then he finishes the tourney off by giving his MVP trophy to a teammate. That's simply unbelievable. What more could you ask for out of a player?

Keep your fingers crossed that Paul Allen, Kevin Pritchard, Nate McMillan and the rest of the Trail Blazers staff can convince Rudy to come to Portland next year. He could legitimately be the last piece of the puzzle.

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