The Rudy Fernandez saga is getting uglier by the day in Portland and is becoming more and more of a distraction to the franchise as training camp quickly approaches. I’ve detailed months ago how Fernandez would be a great fit for the Heat, long before free agency began and Riley hit the jackpot.
The quick Spaniard with the distinguished last name has made his displeasure over his second season with the Blazers known and needs to go to another team. Whether he’s bought out and returns to play back home remains to be seen but as it stands he has an NBA contract that is a paltry and extremely reasonable $1.2 million. At 6-5 and only 25 years old he brings length, athleticism and basketball IQ who is a proven champion in European and national competitions. Even from a marketing perspective, Fernandez could prove to be a fan favorite much like Carlos Arroyo was last year. Whether he’s included in a trade package or could be pried away with a draft pick, perhaps Toronto’s pick from the Shawn Marion trade or two 2nd round picks, it would be a bargain for the Heat and get Wade a young and athletic running mate. He may not be Manu Ginobili but he could play a similar role for the Heat at a fraction of the price.Much has changed since then. While the Heat have been stockpiling quality talent, mostly in the frontcourt, Fernandez is ignoring the Blazers and will not report back to Portland after fulfilling his Spanish national team obligations this summer. His agent is now saying that his client is prepared to sit out while waiting for a buyout so that he can play for Barcelona (his first option) or be traded to five teams he’d prefer to play for. Not surprisingly, the Heat are indeed included on that list but Fernandez has little to no leverage as he is under contract for two more years and obviously is not a star player like Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul are. Minutes have been hard to come by for him last season thanks to the acquisition of Andre Miller after a productive rookie season. Now comes news that the NBA is fining Fernandez to the tune of $25,000 for his actions. The situation needs to be quickly resolved in some way for all parties involved.. New York and Chicago have offered packages for the Spaniard but the Blazers are said to be in no hurry as better offers may come down the pipeline. There were rumors just before the NBA draft that Riley was interested in Fernandez but this was before Daequan Cook was eventually dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder. With league rules preventing the Heat from trading any of their freshly signed free agents (both new and returning players) until the middle of December and their own draft picks (Dexter Pittman and Patrick Beverley) for thirty days the only player that could be traded at the moment is Mario Chalmers. Unfortunately, his salary is too low to match Fernandez’s salary in a straight-up trade, albeit by a razor-thin margin. The Heat would then be limited for the time being to offering draft picks, cash, eventually Pittman or Beverley along with Chalmers. Should he be acquired in exchange for a package involving Chalmers, the Heat would then start Carlos Arroyo with Beverley backing him up and have Eddie House and Fernandez backing up Dwyane Wade. However, the same situation may face Rudy as it did in Portland should Spoelstra use a four-guard rotation given the depth the Heat have up front and the option of using Lebron James or Wade at the point for stretches. Which leads to the bigger of question of whether the Heat really even need Fernandez. The Spaniard set an NBA rookie record for most three pointers yet the Heat addressed shooting with Mike Miller and Eddie House in free agency. He wouldn’t bring much in the way of perimeter defense except for steals. Having said that, his versatility on offense would give the Heat a huge asset for keeping Dwyane Wade from logging heavy minutes during the regular season while giving LeBron a tempting target for drive-and-dish plays. Rudy has a Rip Hamilton-like way of constantly moving around the court to free himself through screens which would help break down defensive schemes, leaving room for others to attack the basket. This would be in contrast with players such as James Jones and Eddie House who would be more prone to camping out in the three-point line waiting for the ball to swing their way. The Heat could also choose to stick with Da’Sean Butler or even a veteran who is still available like Larry Hughes for that one final piece of the puzzle in the backcourt. They may sit back and wait to see what players shake free on other teams after training camp ends and final rosters are set. But the intrigue of Rudy Fernandez will still persist until the divorce becomes final.