Sergio and Me

When I was 13, I met a little man named Sergio Rodriguez. He was only 12. We played together in a Barcelona tournament. Sergio comes from Tenerife, a city in the Canary Islands. So we both come from Spanish islands. Now that we're on the same team, Freedarko posts about the different fashions that Portland fans get to Sergio Rodriguez and myself. Part of it runs next:
...there are still certain infallibilities, untouchable commandments for [Portland Trail Blazer fans]. Brandon is a god. Oden will get there. We have too many small forwards. Rudy Fernandez is the unquestionable fan favorite.

How interesting, then, that the high-flying Spaniard’s meteoric rise is countered by the ongoing, ever-present instability of fellow countryman Sergio Rodriguez. It is difficult to ascertain why Rudy, the stunning rookie, is so quickly showered with boundless praise from both the fans and Blazers’ organization while Sergio, a dazzling guard in his own right, is met with a decidedly less enthusiastic response...

Rudy certainly has the benefit of momentum and hype. This past summer, the lanky Euro stepped off his plane at PDX to find over one hundred fans boisterously cheering his arrival. The excitement can be attributed to Rudy's inspiring play in the Olympic finals when he went toe-to-toe with the NBA's best and brightest. Coach McMillan, an assistant in Beijing, sang numerous praises for his sweet-shooting soon-to-be guard, pointing out the maturity and mental toughness that is overshadowed by Rudy’s long range jumper, quick decision making and aerial grace.

And that’s the odd thing about Rudy’s arrival and subsequent place on the team... McMillan already trusts him; Pritchard looks like a genius for nabbing him...Rudy is the star of the second unit, the protagonist of his very own genre B-film. He electrifies the crowd with a barrage of treys and legs-splayed outta-control-lookin-but-very-much-in-control dunks.

Sergio, meanwhile, is a more complicated entity... Some call for Spanish Chocolate to play 30 minutes a night, banking on the stability to boost his confidence, shooting percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio. Detractors pray for a trade before the rest of the league discovers he’s a sham. Within the organization, all signs point to a similar divide. There was the semi-famous public tiff over playing time that led to Sergio’s agent demanding a trade... Most importantly, Sergio’s playing style—fast break-oriented, sleight of hand magic tricks, gambling defense—is completely at odds with McMillan’s philosophy, both as a hard-nosed former player and disciplined coach...

...how exactly does Rudy fit in with McMillan’s value system that warrants his 28 minutes per while Sergio does not? I’ll happily describe Rudy’s game as dynamic, exciting, and at times unstoppable. But he’s often a defensive liability, launches too many questionable threes, and there are stretches in which he tries either too much or too little.

“Rudy as patron saint” and “Blazers have vendetta against Sergio” are both gross oversimplifications, but those are the archetypes that have solidified. Rudy’s cooled a bit since his scorching start... though he still throws in 11 ppg and drains the long ball. But guess what? So does Sergio, who’s once woeful 3pt shooting now stands at a respectable .366, not to mention those four assists a game (in 16 mpg?!) coupled with a lowered turnover count...

...is it time for Sergio to get his chance? Should Rudy return to his Rip Hamilton-esque screen popping ways rather than languish in the role of spot-up deep threat that so egregiously wastes his versatile offensive panache? Best of all, could this team-wide funk translate to more minutes for the eye-popping Spanish tandem together? Just picture it—“Spaniards return Blazers to Western conference elite with electrifying lobs on the court, wear matching sweaters off.”

...I fear Sergio will decay until his will is broken, devolving from unpredictable ringleader to safe passer; I fear the dark gods have placed Rudy on a path to become a generic, imitation Ginobli. Say it ‘aint so.

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