By now, you have probably heard of Rudy Fernandez’s decision not to play for Portland, or anywhere in the NBA, next season. As reported by Marc Spears, he is homesick and would like to return to Spain, where he’s comfortable and where he knows the culture. It makes you wonder what would have happened if Fernandez had caught on in Milwaukee or Indiana instead of a liberal utopia like PDX. Then again, there are only so many times you can go to Powell’s before you get bored.
I don’t want to discuss whether Rudy is right or wrong to do this even while under contract for 2010-11. If we take Fernandez at his word that he’s willing to sit out the season, then he clearly is seriously unhappy in America and can’t stand another minute away from home. In that case, it’s best for all parties if he returns.
It’s a bit surprising, though. Fernandez has been a fan favorite since arriving in the PNW in 2008. The fans cheer every time he enters the game, he made the dunk contest based on fan voting because of his personality more than his dunks, and he was an important part of the Portland rotation even though he never quite clicked with Nate McMillan. In other words, he had an obvious future in the NBA, with the Blazers or elsewhere. But now his career seems over, both because of his preferences and because teams will likely have a hard time trusting him again.
Fernandez is choosing the comfort and familiarity of Spain over the potential for worldwide stardom and fame in America. By one view, that’s the easy way out, a sign that he’s not willing to prove himself on the biggest stage of all and instead would prefer to beat up on a bunch of terrible basketball players in some country most Americans can’t even locate on a map. (Note: This is a joke. The Spanish League is really good.)
Yet perhaps some people just prefer familiarity over NBA success. Rudy wasn’t a coward — he tried out the NBA and simply hasn’t liked it. If the best league in the world weren’t in America, it’s easy to see our basketball players staying home instead of going overseas, too. The NBA isn’t for everyone, and it’s not a sign of weak character for someone to decide it’s not for him.
To borrow from one famous fallen star, it’s better to reign in Madrid than to serve in Portland.