Without free agency to whisk away the interest of the basketball world, the non-negotiation headlines have been dominated by talk of who will play where. NBA players — or former NBA players? NBA players in remission? — are flocking to alternative leagues and markets for a chance to compete and stay fresh for a season that may never come. This is the relevant news of this particular moment in time, and it’s the reason why the newest Maverick, Rudy Fernandez, has served as the most newsworthy basketball player in Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki has been smothered with praise, but the man himself has been quiet save his EuroBasket stint. Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and Shawn Marion have been off the radar. Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea have been discussed as impending free agents, but only in distant, hypothetical terms. Caron Butler recently registered a blip by playing some pro-am ball, and the fact that a basketball player actually fulfilling his primary occupational function serves as news says all you really need to know about the lockout vacuum.
Fernandez is the only Maverick with an active story to be unfurled, and so the coverage naturally follows him. His future is of obvious interest to those in Dallas, the rest of the NBA front offices, and a particular club abroad, and though there’s still about a year’s worth of ticks on the clock before Fernandez has to decide where he’ll play next season, that eventual choice is still a topic worth hitting around a bit.
Eddie Sefko did just that over at the Dallas Morning News, primarily in response to a report from Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas that Fernandez would use his season (or partial season, if that be the case) in Dallas as a trial period:
Maybe there’s a legitimate reason why Mavericks’ guard Rudy Fernandez is signed and sealed to play in Spain as long as there’s no NBA season.
Maybe he wants to be near the homeland. Maybe he has personal reasons, which would be great.
But the guess here is it’s all about money.
Isn’t it always?
If the driving force behind Fernandez’s goals is to pile up as much Euros as he can, then the Maverickshave no chance of keeping the Spaniard beyond this season. But this stuff about Fernandez using this season as a gauge to see whether he wants to be in the NBA with the Mavericks or in Spain with Real Madrid is a bunch of … uh, stuff.
Will contract finances — which heavily favor Real Madrid’s pursuit of Fernandez’s services beyond this season — play into Rudy’s decision? Undoubtedly. Does that make the money the bottom line for a player who has publicly expressed frustration with his role and NBA comfort level in the past? Hardly. There’s no mutual exclusivity between money and actual basketball considerations; Fernandez is entitled to make a holistic decision based on every factor involved, and based on what we know of him from his tenure in Portland, all of those elements matter. If Fernandez opts to play in Madrid, it wouldn’t be solely because of the cash cow they’d cram into his locker. It’d be because he remained sour on the NBA experience because of his time in Portland and in Dallas, and in whatever cost-benefit calculus he engaged in, Real Madrid was the better choice.