It was all but a formality, but newly acquired Dallas Mavericks guard Rudy Fernandez has finally signed the deal with Real Madrid, according to a report Tuesday morning by the Associated Press out of Madrid.
According to the report, Fernandez, who is entering the final year of his NBA contract, will play for the Spanish team during labor negotiations and suit up for Dallas when the lockout is lifted. Once his NBA contract expires at the end of the season he will become a restricted free agent or, according to the report, he has the option to resume his career in Spain.
The Mavs acquired Fernandez in a draft-night trade in late June after he spent his first three NBA seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers. He helped Spain win its second straight European Championship title Sunday.
Messages for Fernandez's U.S.-based agent Jason Ranne were not immediately returned. The Mavs are prohibited from talking about players during the lockout.
This deal has been in the works for some time. Earlier this summer it was reported that Real Madrid was prepared to make Fernandez the richest player in the Spanish ACB League -- reportedly paying him around $4.3 million per season. ACB is considered to be the strongest of the European leagues.
Under the NBA's expired collective bargaining agreement, Fernandez would earn $2.2 million this season with Dallas and could become a restricted free agent with a $3.2 million qualifying offer for the 2012-13 season. Considered a dynamic athlete that can bury the 3-pointer, drive to the basket and use his long arms to defend on the perimeter, Fernandez has averaged no more than 8.6 points the past two seasons while shooting no higher than 38.7 percent from the floor. He shot just 32.1 percent from 3-point range last season and had a miserable playoff series against Dallas.
Although Portland's low-possession offense might not have played to Fernandez's strengths, it would take quite a season from the 6-foot-6 shooting guard to command a salary that would trump the Real Madrid deal -- although the official figures have not been released -- especially under what is expected to be a more restrictive NBA salary cap.
If Fernandez, 26, were to return to Spain after this season, it shouldn't be a terribly detrimental blow to Dallas, which acquired him mainly to add another long-range shooter this season in defense of its championship. The team still has plenty of sweat invested in Rodrigue Beaubois and they're also grooming raw, second-year guard Dominique Jones, the player the Mavs selected late in the first round after paying the Memphis Grizzlies $3 million to get in position to draft the South Florida slasher.
A year with Fernandez allows Beaubois, coming off a second surgery on his left foot, and Jones, who suffered a fractured foot last season and spent some time in the D-League, a season to further develop without the responsibility and pressure of manning a key role in the rotation.
Should Fernandez return to Spain after the season, the Mavs should be ready to replace him with either of their two young players for the 2012-13 season. And if Beaubois and Jones don't pan out -- which would be disappointing -- Fernandez will go down as nothing more than a low-cost gamble that should be sufficiently replaceable in next summer's free-agent market.
Who knows, a year from now the Mavs might not even want him back.