Rudy Fernandez plans to use this season -- partly in Spain during the NBA lockout and later for the Dallas Mavericks, assuming the season will be saved – as a “test period” to decide where he wants to resume his career a year from now.
“He has to figure out if he likes it [in Spain] and he has to see if he likes the Mavs,” said a source with knowledge of Fernandez’s thinking.
A week ago Fernandez agreed to a contract with Real Madrid of the Spanish Liga Endesa, which recently changed its name from the ACB League. The deal includes an opt-out clause for this season and Fernandez will join the Mavs when the lockout is lifted.
The deal also allows Fernandez next summer to explore his best option, either a return to Real Madrid or remain in the NBA. Under the NBA’s expired collective bargaining agreement, Fernandez is due to become a restricted free agent after this season with a $3.2 million qualifying offer.
The Mavs, who traded the 26th pick in the June draft -- former Texas Longhorn Jordan Hamilton -- to Portland (who then shipped him to the Denver Nuggets) for the 6-foot-6 shooting guard, can match any offer for Fernandez by other NBA teams.
“All of that will come out next summer,” the source said of Fernandez’s final decision.
If money is the end game, the Mavs likely either won’t be able to compete with Real Madrid’s offer or simply won’t want to. Reports out of Spain earlier this summer suggested that Real Madrid was prepared to make Fernandez the highest-paid player in the league, in the neighborhood of $4.3 million a season.
“Real Madrid,” the source said, “can smash the [Mavs’] qualifying offer.”
The Mavs acquired Fernandez to provide an athletic, youthful shooter around its aging core of veterans as it seeks to defend the franchise’s first NBA title. Dallas, in full-blown win-now mode, placed more value in trading for a veteran player than breaking in another rookie on a roster it knows has a limited shelf life.
Whether the Mavs would have gone through with the trade had they realized Fernandez’s potential desire to return to Spain after one season is uncertain. NBA clubs are prohibited from speaking about current players during the lockout.
Fernandez, the source said, is excited to join the world champs, but also said that he was a bit surprised to be traded to Dallas because of its stable of shooting guards that includes veteran Jason Terry and developing talents in Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones. The Mavs have also said they hope to re-sign unrestricted free agent DeShawn Stevenson. Corey Brewer, acquired last season, is also an option at two-guard.
Re-signing Stevenson, a defensive standout and 3-point shooter in the Mavs’ march to the championship, could prove difficult and it would open a potential starting spot for Fernandez.
In his first three seasons in the NBA with Portland, Fernandez averaged 9.1 points on 39.4 percent shooting from the floor and 36.4 percent from 3-point range. His numbers dropped off in the playoffs, bottoming out last season with a miserable first-round series against the Mavs. He averaged 2.8 points on 22.2 percent shooting in just 13.8 minutes a game.
Some point to Portland’s low-possession offense as being a poor fit Fernandez, who might feel more comfortable playing in Dallas’ flow offense led by point guard Jason Kidd and anchored by Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki.