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News » Portland Trail Blazers Getting Inside 2008-05-28

Portland Trail Blazers Getting Inside 2008-05-28

Portland Trail Blazers Getting Inside 2008-05-28
The Blazers' brass are crossing their fingers that 2007 draft pick Rudy Fernandez will turn down major European money to sign with Portland for next season.

GM Kevin Pritchard, assistant general manager Tom Penn, director of college scouting Chad Buchanan and director of NBA scouting Mike Born spent several days in Spain late last month scouting talent as well as trying to secure negotiations to sign Fernandez, arguably the hottest ticket in European basketball who Portland got with the 24th pick in last year's draft.

The Blazers could sign Fernandez until May 31 -- that's not going to happen -- or after June 30, when his contract with Joventut Badalona expires.

Fernandez -- the most valuable player in all three major tournaments he played in this season -- leads the ACB (Spanish League) in scoring (21.2 points) while shooting 59 percent from the field, 41 percent from three-point range and 91 percent from the foul line.

But Fernandez can make only $873,200 his first season with the Blazers under the NBA's rookie pay scale. He could make four to five times that in Europe next season, but Portland execs are optimistic that Fernandez, 23, will pass up the big money to give the NBA a try.

Blazer scouts think Fernandez is a shooting guard who can play some small forward and will eventually be able to play some at point guard. He is probably a year away from being NBA-ready, especially in getting accustomed to the physicality of the game. But Fernandez is talented enough that he could help the club immediately next season.

SEASON HIGHLIGHT: Portland was 5-12 and coming off an embarrassing 100-79 loss to San Antonio Dec. 2 when McMillan decided to let up a little on his young team. With the reins off, the Blazers kicked into a more free-spirited, up-tempo style and promptly ran off the longest winning streak in the NBA at that point.

The 13-game streak saw the Blazers take defined roles. Blue-collar center Joel Przybilla battled for rebounds and blocks down low and forward Travis Outlaw emerged as a sixth man and off-the-bench scoring threat. LaMarcus Aldridge took his place as a secondary scorer next to Brandon Roy, Steve Blake became a reliable distributor of the ball, and Martell Webster and James Jones became the outside shooting threats Portland had been lacking.

TURNING POINT: Portland's luck was probably doomed to change when a favorable December schedule turned tough in January and February. After playing 10 games out of a 13-game stretch in December at the Rose Garden, the Blazers had a seven-game road stretch in January.

The wheels didn't start to come off until they lost eight of nine in the middle of February, and a stretch of six loses in seven games from March 27-April 11 was indicative of a young team that was running out of gas.

Late season injuries to Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Przybilla left the team without a rudder.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 28, 2008


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