Fernandez is no Roy, but he does have speed
TUALATIN, Ore. — What comes after change?
If you are the Portland Trail Blazers, the answer is easy: more change.
With All-Star guard Brandon Roy out for tonight’s regular-season finale against Golden State at the Rose Garden, and possibly throughout the playoffs, the Blazers must immediately adjust their offense and defense to compensate for the loss.
The Natural is out. Rudy Fernandez, the Electric Spaniard, is in. And while Fernandez’s move into the starting lineup definitely will not make up for the loss of Roy, Portland coach Nate McMillan said there are related benefits.
Roy is the focus of the Blazers’ offense when he is on the court; Fernandez is just a small part of it. And where Roy thrives in a half-court, mid-tempo game that is based off ball control, dribble penetration and mid-range shots, Fernandez is better suited in a full-court system that allows him to either sprint toward the basket or set up behind the 3-point line and take aim.
“I don’t mind Rudy in that lineup, because we’re playing off of LaMarcus (Aldridge), we’re playing off of (Andre) Miller,” said McMillan, following a workout Tuesday at the team’s practice facility. “You want a spreader, a shooter on the floor. He fits with that unit. If they want to double team, then Rudy is going to be out there to spread the floor, keep them honest, and we can run some sets for him.”
Portland did just that Monday during a crucial 103-95 home victory over Oklahoma City. While Fernandez shot just 2 of 6 from the floor, he finished with nine points, four rebounds and two assists.
As the game wore on, the Blazers wore Thunder star forward Kevin Durant down. Power sets run for Fernandez played a part, McMillan said, as did the second-year guard’s speed. While Fernandez cut through lanes, ran through screens and crisscrossed the court, Durant and Oklahoma City were forced to play catch up — and catch their breath.
McMillan employed the same tactic last Sunday, during a big-time road win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Bulky Lakers forward Ron Artest was assigned to Fernandez. Soon, Artest was chasing Fernandez all over the court. And by the time Artest was breathing hard on shaky legs, Lakers coach Phil Jackson was taking him out of the game.
McMillan said Tuesday that Fernandez will start tonight against the Warriors — either a Portland victory or a loss by San Antonio to Dallas will give the Blazers the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs — and he will likely remain a starter until Roy is activated. So, whenever Portland’s still-to-be-determined first-round playoff opponent attempts to disguise a less-than-reliable defender, the Blazers will cut Fernandez loose and set him free, in an attempt to expose an adversary’s weakness.
“We’ll try and take advantage of that,” McMillan said. “We can make him make those guys work.”
McMillan said Roy will likely begin to test his injured right knee Thursday. Roy has a slightly torn meniscus in the knee, and he will undergo surgery following the playoffs. The three-time All-Star is scheduled to be re-evaluated Friday by doctors. The earliest Portland will begin its first-round matchup is Saturday. “We’ll know something before the game, as far as how we approach playing him or playing without him,” McMillan said. … Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge suffered a left-calf contusion during the victory over the Thunder. The injury occurred late in the fourth quarter, when Aldridge was fouled hard by Oklahoma City’s Nick Collison during a layup attempt. Collison received a flagrant foul for the hit. “I don’t really know what happened,” Aldridge said. “But I just know when I got up, it was kind of hurting.” Despite the injury, Aldridge expects to play tonight against the Warriors.
Check the Blazer Banter blog at columbian.com/blazerbanter for notes, news, interviews and videos.
Warriors vs. Blazers, 7:30 p.m. at Rose Garden
TV: KGW (8)
Radio: 95.5 FM
Position/player Ht. Pts.
G Andre Miller 6-2 14.1
G Rudy Fernandez 6-6 8.1
F Nicolas Batum 6-8 10.1
F LaMarcus Aldridge 6-11 17.9
C Marcus Camby 6-11 7.0
G Stephen Curry 6-3 17.2
G Monta Ellis 6-3 25.5
F Corey Maggette 6-6 19.8
F Anthony Tolliver 6-9 12.0
C Ronny Turiaf 6-10 5.0