Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The Reason For the Offseason
The first thing Rudy Fernandez said to me when I arrived at his camp assuaged any concerns I had regarding how I might have been received by someone who, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t know all that well.
“Welcome to my home,” he said, stretching out his arms in an attempt to present the landscape of Campanet as if it were a painting hanging in a museum.
But Rudy did not grow up in the small town of Campanet, the location of his youth camp. He spent his first twelve years in Palma, the largest city on the island of Mallorca, before moving to Barcelona to begin his professional basketball career with Joventut’s junior team. But to Rudy, home is more than the place where he lays his head at night. It’s a feeling determined more by the kinship of a people who share a common history than it is an address. And maybe most importantly, home is a place where he can finally get some respite.
“My family is here, my friends are here,” said Rudy. “I need to rest from basketball. No rest a lot because the camp is basketball, but be with my friends because in Portland, the first year, I stay in the USA. It was a big change for me, but right now I think I need to relax in my country with my food, with my friends. I think it’s very important.”
He couldn’t be more correct. Everyone was tired after the end of last season, but in regards to fatigue, no one had more to overcome than Rudy. Getting acclimated to the physical style of play, not to mention the schedule employed by the NBA, is tough for a rookie. So is leaving your family and friends for a foreign land. Denying yourself a midseason break so you can participate in All-Star weekend and playing an extra month or so worth of games so you can represent your country at the Olympics is difficult as well. And when you consider those singular circumstances as pieces of a whole season, it’s hard to imagine a more exhausting set of circumstances.
Which is why returning home after the end of the season was such a significant event for Rudy. Fans often lament that players don’t stick around to take in the wonders of an offseason in Oregon, but in many cases, such as Rudy’s, there’s good reason for that yearly exodus.
“I think it’s difficult the first year,” said Rudy. “Probably the people don’t see me in my house sometimes. I think all the time about my family when with the Portland Trail Blazers. I think it is important right now for me is to stay with my family. In Portland sometimes I stay with my friends, with my family, but not everyday. And this is difficult for me because I need the help of family, the help of friends.”
That shouldn’t be read as a declaration of discontent. Far from it. Rudy is quick to point out how satisfied he is with Portland, especially when it comes to the support of the fans in the Rose City and beyond, but the transition was understandably difficult for a man so family oriented and with such deep Iberian roots.
“Every day I think about Mallorca,” said Rudy, “I think about Barcelona. But my dream is to play in the NBA. You can see behind you, you can see in front of you. Right now my new goal is to play a lot of yesrs in the NBA. Sure I think of Mallorca, for sure I think about my friends, but right now I focus on my dream, I focus on my work. That’s playing basketball.”