Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Dunk And The Rudy

The Slam Dunk Contest is still about four hours away, and after spending some time with Rudy Fernandez this afternoon, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that he's probably napping in anticipation of the tonight's main event.

The combination of playing Wednesday against the Thunder, Thursday against the Warriors and Friday against the Sophomores along with All-Star appearances, events, media availabilities and catching up with friends has taken a bit of a toll on the lankier half of the Spanish Armada. Hopefully he's able to get in some solid sack time before Dunk Contest, because the dude looked beat when we parted ways a few hours ago.

And he's going to need his strength if he's going to win this thing. Dwight Howard is a force of nature, Nate Robinson has maybe the highest vert-to-stature ratio in the world and JR Smith is a underrated athlete in his own right. And as far as fatigue goes, I don't think I'm going out on a limb in saying that none of the three have had to keep the schedule Rudy has over the past four days. Think they or the judges will be sympathetic? Me either.

I think the conventional wisdom is that Rudy is the longshot to come away with the title, but his opponents ain't buying that notion.

"I never really seen him dunk," said Smith, "but I talk to his teammates all the time and they tell me he’s a crazy athlete, so I can’t wait to see him."

Smith may not be familiar with Rudy's dunks, but Robinson has seen Rudy enough to know the Spaniard is no slouch when it comes to throwing down.

"I can’t wait to see what he got because he gets a lot of dunks and he’s a foreigner," said Robinson. "It’s going to be awesome to see what he brings to the table."

One of the skills that Rudy brings as a dunker is his ability to finish alley-oops, which, according to Robinson, gives Fernandez an edge in the contest.

"You jump higher without the ball, believe it or not," explains Nate Rob. "If somebody has to throw him a lob every time, he has an advantage because you can jump higher without the ball and do more things."

Robinson's plan to win? Copycat whatever his opponents do. The diminutive Knick claims he's not going to do any of his own dunks, opting instead to mimic whatever jams Howard, Smith and Fernandez bust out. Not a terrible plan, but I have my doubts that Nate can flip a ball over his head with his feet, something many think Rudy is going to attempt.

"I’ll try," said Robinson. "I’ll have him kick the ball for me, then I'll go dunk it."

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