That glorious Spaniard

Since the days of being knee high, I have been a Portland Trail Blazers fan. My earliest memories recall Clyde Drexler striking fear into the hearts of defenders as he brought the ball downcourt.

Since the days of being knee high, I have been a Portland Trail Blazers fan. My earliest memories recall Clyde Drexler striking fear into the hearts of defenders as he brought the ball downcourt.

“Clyde the Glide,” they called him, and glide he did. Unfortunately, he wanted a ring so badly that he defected to an awful Texan team to win one, and that is a large glass of bitterness for a lifelong Blazers fan to gulp.

Drexler is of a bygone era, however, and so is the miserable period of Bob Whitsitt and his Jail Blazers. It was a cruel time in Portland, a time of no chemistry on the court as our players flopped about the hardwood like Chinook salmon out of water.

I took the lumps, and now I enjoy the gravy. I loathe the fair-weather fans, those that quit wearing the pinwheel insignia when Terry Porter and Cliff Robinson left, only to flock to the Rose Garden when Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden showed up.

Today, our elite squad boasts a rich blend of wizened veterans (Andre Miller, Joel Przybilla) to helm the efforts of future Hall of Famers (Roy, Aldridge) and to coax out the brilliance teeming within our youngest warriors (Oden, Nicolas Batum).

Basketball is the finest form of sport left in today’s steroid-fueled, gun-toting, dog-fighting mess of professional athletes, and this year’s Blazers squad is easily the most fun to watch. Any time I see Roy break a defender’s ankle with his frighteningly quick crossover, I leap from my seat and dance like a baboon on speed.

Of all the Blazers I watched last year and will watch this year, Rudy Fernández is my favorite. A basketball is just leather slapped over a rubber bladder of compressed air, but in Fernández’s hands it becomes a sphere of electricity.

He fires the rock from behind the arc with a graceful certainty no other current player does, and his 159 treys last year—a record for rookies—don’t lie. The ball seems to hone in on the basket like a guided missile with coordinates set to the bottom of the net, and watching Fernández immediately snap into defensive play after the bucket is a testament to his focus.

Downtime is a joke the Blazers tell in the locker room because these fellows neither waste a moment for gloating after they put points on the board nor do they miss an opportunity to launch into fast-break play. Fernández is one of those players who, once his feet hit the court, hustles from end to end as he turns defenders’ legs to jelly and forces offenses to commit imbecilic errors like uncoordinated teenagers.

He comes off the bench, so perhaps that accounts for his stamina. He is a murderous clutch player who sizes up his opponent during the first stretch of a game, then exploits each weakness observed to maximum effect.

There are several NBA players I’d love to play one-on-one ball with (and obviously lose to), but Fernández is not one of them. I’d waddle home in tears, and my legs would be drenched in urine following each time he’d blow past me in a fluid motion that’d end in a dazzling dunk.

One player doesn’t make the whole team, but watching that glorious Spaniard lets me know he must be in contention for this year’s Sixth Man Award. Roy is our superstar, Miller is our dish man and Przybilla is our consummate power presence—watching Oden stuff anyone who dares to drive his lane is fun, but he has consistency issues. Give him six more months.

Yet Fernández is who they count on to sink a trey when it’s needed, to drive past defenders like steam through a metal grate or else to pull defenders toward him and then pass to a wide-open teammate who scores with ease.
This year is an exciting one for we diehard Blazers fans. Fernández will likely remain my favorite Blazer to watch, and I pray to the basketball gods for him to win a ring after just two years on the squad, kicking off a dynasty the fans in this city deserve.