More than 100 fans welcomed Spanish guard Rudy Fernandez to the Portland Trail Blazers upon his arrival to the city with chants of 'Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!'
PORTLAND — More than 100 fans welcomed Spanish guard Rudy Fernandez to the Portland Trail Blazers upon his arrival to the city with chants of "Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!"
"It was a good surprise," Fernandez said. "When I arrived, I say, 'OK, let's go practice now. Let's go.'"
The 6-foot-6 Olympian arrived at Portland International Airport on Monday and was whisked to the Rose Garden, where the Blazers held a news conference to introduce him.
"He's a team player. He's a great kid," general manager Kevin Pritchard said. "I think he'll raise the level of competition for everyone."
Fernandez played for Spain in Beijing, scoring 22 points in the gold medal game against the United States. The U.S. team won, 118-107.
Portland coach Nate McMillan was an assistant coach for the U.S. team. He and some of the other coaches went to watch Spain during the competition, with Kobe Bryant tagging along.
McMillan recounted how Bryant said to him: "He's your kid, huh? He's pretty good."
Pritchard said the team would give Fernandez time to acclimate to Portland and find a place to live. The Blazers would work on getting him a tutor to help him with his English.
The Trail Blazers open training camp Sept. 30 at the team's practice facility in Tualatin. The team opens preseason play against Sacramento on Oct. 7 at the Rose Garden Arena.
McMillan said the team would also give Fernandez time to catch up on the NBA style of play.
"But once he does, he's going to be a special player," McMillan said.
Fernandez has played the past seven seasons for DKV Joventut Badalona of the Spanish ACB League. Last season he averaged 21.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals for the team, which won both the ULEB Cup and the Copa del Rey.
Portland acquired Fernandez in a trade with Phoenix during the 2007 NBA draft.
"My dream is to play against the best players in the world and Portland gave me that opportunity," he said.
Fernandez is good friends with Blazers guard Sergio Rodriguez, who is also from Spain.