Greetings from New Orleans. It's pushing 3 a.m. here in the Big Easy, but it's always hard to sleep after watching your squad gut out a huge win on the road. Sleep is for losers, and the Portland Trail Blazers are most decidedly not losers. Especially not today.
Much of tonight's (or rather, yesterday night's) 104-96 win against the Heat can be attributed to the play of Rudy Fernandez. It seems like every game, Rudy does something to drive the opposing defense nuts. Leave him alone in the corner, he'll drain the triple. Close out to contest the three, he'll go around you and finish with the dunk. Try to get into him, he'll rub and cut to the hoop for the alley-oop. Try to anticipate the drive, he'll flare screen for the fadeaway three. He's the headiest Spaniard since Cervantes.
He's also quite modest. Try to pay him a compliment or get him to talk about his stellar play, and his responses always come back to giving credit to the team while taking none of the spoils for himself. During his post game remarks which lasted no longer that five minutes, Rudy continually dodged speaking about his career-high 25 points in favor of praising his teammates. Observe.
"I think it's the team. The teams is play great ... I think everybody is important. Today me, last day last game Brandon, last game LA. Sergio played great today. You know, it's everybody ... It feels good, but I feel good for the team, you know? ... I think it's Travis and Brandon is very good defense on Dwyane Wade ... I think it's together we play good ... I think it's important that today we win."
Luckily, Rudy's teammates have his back when it comes to making sure he gets his propers.
"I really love to play with him," said fellow countryman Sergio Rodriguez. "He's totally ready for the NBA. No question about it. He had a big game for us."
(Sergio had the quote of the night when asked by Jason Quick about how the latest Rodriguez-to-Fernandez alley-oop came to be: "I saw him in the face.")
Brandon Roy, the unquestioned leader in the Trail Blazers locker room, also heaped praise on his fellow shooting guard.
"He was great tonight," said Roy. "Sometimes I catch myself watching him and he's shooting floaters all-net. And just to watch how he's talking trash. I loved it. I loved every minute of it. Rudy's a competitor.
"I can't say it surprises me because I watched him in the Olympics and I'm like, 'This dude is bigtime!' So I'm just glad he's on our team and bringing that same enthusiasm to our team and that same confidence, because I know when he has the ball, Rudy going to make a play. That's Rudy. He's out there talking and having fun and I just love watching him play. If I was a fan, I would love to watch Rudy Fernandez play."
I think you could go so far as to say that if you don't like watching Rudy Fernandez play, then you're categorically not a fan, of the Trail Blazers or organized basketball.