According to the Associated Press, Rudy Fernandez’s deal with Real Madrid has finally been inked. With EuroBasket in the rearview mirror and the ongoing CBA negotiations at something of an impasse stateside, Fernandez found an alternative — but quite comfortable — home for the season to come.
That said, Fernandez’s contractual commitment to Real Madrid isn’t quite as significant as initially rumored. The AP report puts Fernandez with the club for the remainder of the locked out season with a mere option to return to the team next year. This is a significant departure to the rumored deal that would’ve locked up Fernandez in Madrid for the next four seasons (less whatever post-lockout NBA campaign exists). His momentum is no longer definite; gone is the wing with one foot out the door, and in is a free agent with a possibility of playing overseas. Those are two very different players and very different assets.
There remains a very strong possibility that Fernandez still bolts for Madrid at season’s end, but Dallas has been given the opportunity to convince him otherwise. That’s not nothing; the Mavericks are a first-class organization with luxurious player accommodations, a superstar player, fantastic systems on both ends of the floor, and a title to their name. They have a lot to offer, so long as Fernandez is listening. Perhaps he’s already decided in his basketballing heart of hearts to return to Spain — there’s nothing wrong with that, supposing that it doesn’t impact his NBA play this season as a result. But if there’s even the slightest chance that Fernandez remains in the NBA following the completion of his contract, I’d think that Dallas would be at least a bit alluring. Fernandez will have his options in free agency next summer, but the Mavericks are a good a fit as any.
Which, of course, supposes the Mavericks extended interest beyond this season. Perhaps Fernandez really was acquired as a contributing placeholder, meant to produce from the wing while Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, and Corey Brewer inch toward reliability. All three of those players are candidates for regular minutes on the wing a year from now, a glut which honestly does make Fernandez a bit expendable. His potential departure wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world; there is nothing Fernandez does that can’t be replaced with pieces on the existing roster or through affordable free agent additions, and though the Mavericks are better off with Fernandez on the roster, they aren’t exactly sunk with him off of it. The choice of whether to remain in Dallas will likely be his, but contrary to earlier reports, that choice hasn’t already been made. Fernandez hasn’t been signed away by Real Madrid for the foreseeable future. He remains a legitimate piece in the Mavs’ plans going forward, albeit a flexible one with his own free agency.