With the shortened NBA season scheduled to give fans a Christmas present to look forward to, the defending champs are in the process of defining what their roster will look like when they take on the Miami Heat on opening night.
Enter Rudy Fernandez, the highly-touted yet often underachieving shooting guard the Dallas Mavericks traded their first-round draft pick (Jordan Hamilton) for in the 2011 NBA draft. The Mavericks traded for him so he could be in the mold of DeShawn Stevenson and Peja Stojakovic, guarding bigger SGs and helping to spread the floor on offense, respectively.
But with the lockout delaying the beginning of the season, and Fernandez coming off an offer to be the the highest paid basketball player in Spain, where will his head be during his time in Dallas?
Fernandez is on record as saying that this season with Dallas will be a "test period," where he decides whether or not his NBA career is progressing along the lines that he likes, with an offer in Spain waiting for him if he decides otherwise.
As recently as this weekend, reports have flooded in claiming Fernandez will ask the Mavericks to return to Spain this season. He was also injured during his team's game last Thursday night, sustaining what looks to be a knee injury that will force him to miss at least a week.
That can't be settling for the Mavericks, who are in full-fledged "win-now" mode after claiming their franchise's first title in 2011. They got Fernandez from the Portland Trail Blazers to try and give him a fresh start of sorts, since grumblings of his unhappiness have flooded reports since he entered the league in 2008.
He is only scheduled to make $2.2 million this season, and when he is on he can be one of the deadliest shooters in the league. He set rookie records for three-pointers made (159), making a three in 33 consecutive games and also making a three in his first 20 NBA games.
The Mavericks gave up their first round pick for a guy they feel will gel with their current core. Surrounding Fernandez with Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki will take the pressure off of him to be the go-to guy like he is in Spain, although the story from Fernandez is that Portland never gave him the opportunity to succeed.
There is no mistaking that when focused and ready to play, he can be explosive. But he will be asked to be a contributor on a team aiming to find small pieces to patch up a model they have already had success with, not be the go-to guy.
If Fernandez buys in to the team-first concept, he can help the Mavericks get back to the promised land. If not, he will likely be on a plane back to Spain in June 2012, aiming to get paid in his own country and leaving the NBA in the rearview.
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