Donuts: Scurrying For Cheerios At The AAC
DONUT 1: Within the friendly confines of the Old Number 7 club in the American Airlines Center much of the Dallas basketball-centric media gathered in honor of the 2011 draft, enjoying fajitas and their beverage of choice. Laptops decorated the small bar tables at the ground level of the club, giving many the prime opportunity to discover how guacamole and sour cream mixed with their keyboards (not as well as with fajitas, if you're wondering).
DONUT 2: Set a few feet back from the mouth of the stairs on the lower level was a podium and backdrop where Donnie Nelson would later address an arc of cameras and cleverly constructed questions trying to pry the name of a newly acquired player (whose identity was already known to be Rudy Fernandez, the 26-year-old, 6-6 Spanish shooting guard from Portland), though Donnie was powerless to confirm that name with the deal unable to be finalized until the 57th pick was completed.
DONUT 3: The levity in this moment, perhaps never more clear than when Eddie Sefko asked, "Should we say ‘Gracias'?" to a nice chuckle and knowing nod from Donnie, was indicative of the overall mood around an organization that continues to enjoy the elevation of spirit granted by winning a championship … found both in those within and surrounding the franchise.
DONUT 4: Prior to this friendly exchange came the only moments straying from an almost leisurely atmosphere (referring only to the press), when reports leaked from Denver that Dallas's 26th pick was involved in a previously known deal sending Raymond Felton to Portland and Andre Miller to Denver. In an instant, tables emptied, calls were made, whispers were exchanged, and the near frantic search was underway for what the Mavs were receiving in return.
DONUT 5: As fans searched fruitlessly for a name, the media did the same. Like ants scrambling for the Cheerio lifted off their heads, the hunt was on and an energy spilled over the room. For a group congregated around the sole purpose of Dallas' role in this draft, the night had finally begun in earnest.
Marc Stein set the fray to rest with a single tweet … Rudy Fernandez was on his way to Dallas, and we all headed down to receive the confirmation Donnie was unable to provide (at least in its totality).
DONUT 6: "We are fully transacted," Nelson said to another brief collection of laughs, closing the need to chase further moves, and the debate began.
Was this a good move or a poor one?
The answers have been far from unanimous, but here's our take:
DONUT 7: To begin, let's look back to what we had to say almost exactly a year ago (last July to be exact) when Rudy was voicing his desires to exit Portland, and we were searching through the dwindling list of free agents and/or players widely rumored to be available for possible Mavs targets.
Rudy has been in the league two years, and the biggest impression he's left on most fans came in the Gold Medal game of the 2008 Olympics against the Redeem Team, where he was very impressive.
There is nothing overly positive anywhere in the stats you see, other than his Adjusted +/- during his rookie campaign and his 3P% (especially in the playoffs). Some of this is countered by his rather pedestrian PER numbers, only cracking 15 during the regular season his rookie year.
On the Mavs, there is a good chance his minutes wouldn't go up much from what he's already known unless Roddy Beaubois or Jason Terry get squeezed out of the rotation. However, his role could change, as he would be asked to be more of a scorer. Depending on how much of an impact Dominique Jones can make, Fernandez could challenge Terry as the first guard off of the bench … though we shiver to imagine of a defensive lineup including Barea, Terry and Fernandez simultaneously. Would this possible bump in stats and notoriety ease his desire for a bump in minutes?
We're not dissuaded in our hope to get Rudy to the Mavs, as we feel the player is greater than the sum of his numbers. Considering these stats and the minutes likely to be available, we can understand if the Mavs are unwilling to part with valuable assets to acquire him, especially as they try to keep themselves positioned for a larger move. Sometimes a player of his talent level needs only a chance, a change of scenery, to explode. That could be the case here, and it would certainly be worth the risk if the only assets lost are a TPE, Barea, Ajinca, cash or a second round pick or two.
If the Blazers were willing (that's a very big "if"), we'd love to have him here.
DONUT 8: So, what's changed?
For one, the Mavs are now defending champions and it's safe to say our opinion of Jason Terry and Barea (a free agent) has grown considerably, as has the emotional attachment to another core playoff contributor, free agent DeShawn Stevenson. All players who could conceivably occupy the stable of guards Rudy now enters, as well feel the ripples created by his arrival.
The emotional bond mentioned above extends to every member of the 15-man roster that brought an NBA Finals victory to Dallas, yet the rotational concerns are remarkably similar. Buried in the uncertainty of the CBA negotiations, there's stood a very real fear that the Mavs would be unable to retain all six of their unrestricted free agents.
Rudy comes as both a safeguard against this, and an affront to Donnie's stated desire to bring everyone back … Fernandez will be on the roster, which guarantees one less spot, along with the fact that at least one must now be set free … just as signing a rookie would have.
Any incoming player was destined to push another out the door. There is no way around this fact. Perhaps further moves will cause it to be someone outside the unsigned six, but you may only carry 15. Dallas had 15. If one arrives, one must leave.
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DONUT 10: Compounding the hit to the emotional gratitude all Dallas fans harbor for those who finally captured a title in the franchise's 31st season, there came the player many local onlookers coveted: Jordan Hamilton, from the University of Texas.
Never mind the fact that this pick was made for Denver and may not have been the selection had the Mavs done the choosing, the asset formerly known simply as the 26th pick in a weak draft now had a name, a local name, a desired name. And, never mind the fact that Hamilton was unlikely to find the minutes to become a contributor for a team in the Dallas area not named the Texas Legends in the coming season, as well as possibly the remaining heart of the Dirk-era.
But, this wasn't Jordan Hamilton and Targuy Ngombo for Rudy Fernandez and Petteri Koponen. It was the 26th and 57th pick (chosen by other teams) for a guy capable of immediately joining the rotation without the need to grow into that role via years of teaching and growth.
Even if Hamilton instantly finds minutes in Denver and puts up impressive numbers, the odds of his doing so in Dallas within the next year or two were almost nonexistent.
This was a move to improve the team now and in the future, with the same roster spot that could have gone to the 26th pick … and the same need to see one of the 15 no Dallas fan will ever forget go.
DONUT 12: So, what's changed with the newest Maverick from our opinion of a year ago? Essentially, one poor season and an even poorer playoff performance ... though you could say this postseason performance now aided the Mavs twice, in winning the series and in lowering his trade value.
That one additional season surely represents a statistical regression, as Rudy saw his field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage and rebounds dip further, though one must weigh these with the clearly visible taint that he was not happy in Portland – unless happy players generally demand to be released or traded and threaten to leave the country, even if leaving is going home – along with the fact that he did post a slightly positive adjusted plus/minus in both the regular season and the playoffs (one of only four Blazers players to do so) and showed a minimal uptick in his PER (from 13.1 a season ago to 13.4 … though this fell off the map in the postseason).
Considering the wealth of evidence supporting his unhappiness this past season, including two incidents revolving around demanding a trade or release and a total of $75,000 in fines ($25k and then $50k), and the injuries that hampered his 2009-10 season, is it a stretch to say the closest we've come to seeing the "real" Rudy on the court came during his rookie campaign?
Is even the consideration of this notion, paired with the fact that he should be an instant addition to the rotation, enough to label this deal a win for the Mavs?
We believe so.
DONUT 13: Stick with DB.com this week as in addition our usual coverage of the Mavs, we'll have Guest Donuts! Joining us will be DB.com guest columnists like Newy Scruggs, Brian Cuban, Gina Miller and Chuck Cooperstein!