Notebook: Fernandez returns; Batum not far behind
Portland Trail Blazers guard Rudy Fernandez was cleared to play in Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Rose Garden.
“I’m good,” Fernandez said after a warmup shooting session.
The 6-foot-6, 185-pound native of Palma de Mallorca, Spain has officially been out since Dec. 8, following a microdiscectomy to alleviate pain in his right leg. He last played Dec. 1 in a home loss to Miami.
Blazers coach Nate McMillan said Fernandez will be kept on a strict time schedule for the next few games, with his minutes limited to about 10.
“We want to get him back in slowly,” McMillan said. “A few minutes a half.”
The second-year guard is averaging 8.6 points and 2.7 rebounds in 20 games this season, while shooting 38.8 percent behind the 3-point line.
As a rookie, Fernandez averaged 10.4 points, shot 39.9 percent from 3-point range, and set an NBA rookie record with 159 made 3s.
Fernandez is not the only Blazer who should soon be back to full force.
Portland forward Nicolas Batum said he is still eyeing a Jan. 25 return date, and could take the court when the Blazers face New Orleans that night at the Rose Garden. If not, Batum expects to play Jan. 27 in a home contest against Utah.
“It feels great. My first job is basketball. I miss playing basketball,” Batum said. “So, I just want to be back very quickly to help the team win some games.”
In addition, the 6-foot-8, 210-pound Batum said he will travel with Portland during its upcoming four-game road trip.
McMillan said he is looking forward to Batum’s return, and added that the new challenge will be working him and Fernandez back into the Blazers’ rotation.
“They’re coming, and that’s the good thing,” McMillan said. “We do have bodies, where for the last month, guys have been playing a ton of minutes.”
Batum has yet to take the court this season following surgery Oct. 30, 2009 to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
The second-year forward from Lisieux, France averaged 5.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and started 79 games as a rookie for the Blazers last season. He was also a key defensive stopper, and was slated as the team’s starting small forward this season before his injury.
Batum aggravated his injury last summer while playing for the French national team, while Fernandez played through pain for Spain.
McMillan said he believes foreign NBA players should be allowed to play for their country, and added that the choice is a personal one.
“It’s been a decision, a question that has become really more important the last few years,” McMillan said.
He added: “I can see both sides. Where organizations, they are investing a ton of money into these players.
Most players that are playing are big-salary guys, and there is a risk.”
As a symbol of the risk involved, McMillan said that Fernandez might not play for Spain this summer as he attempts to take better care of his body.
In the past, the Blazers have attempted to work with their players to find a smooth balance between the black and red and national pride.
As an example, McMillan gave Fernandez extra time off during training camp because the Spanish guard was worn down from his non-stop basketball schedule.
But in the end, the decision is up to the player, McMillan said.
“That’s on the individual,” McMillan said. “And I think you have to know your body and know your schedule and know you who you are … if you feel that that’s going to be an issue. Because when you come back, you’re going to be expected to be ready to play. And that’s not an excuse for you, whatever it is, if you’re not ready for the season.”
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