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What Russell Westbrook can learn from Rudy Fernandez — ”His role in this team is different from any other role he ever had in any other team.”

Darvin Ham should send Russell Westbrook all the articles and highlight reels covering Rudy Fernandez's evolution.
Spain guard Rudy Fernandez and Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook

Rudy Fernandez and Russell Westbrook

Luka Dončić, Nikola Jokić and Giannis Antetokounmpo are all out of Eurobasket. Given the fact everyone considered Slovenia, Serbia, and Greece to be the main favorites for winning a medal, Spain was most often mentioned as an established team to miss out this year. One of the reasons they surprised everyone is a reinvented 37-year-old Rudy Fernandez. 

Rudy Fernandez’s new role

Rudy Fernandez has donned the national team colors since 2001 as a member of the national team youth teams. Fast forward to 2022, and he is still showing what he’s capable of at the ongoing EuroBasket tournament. At 37 years old, he might be the most important player in the Spain squad, regarded as one of the least talented in recent history. Rudy’s work ethic isn’t lost on his coach, Sergio Scariolo, who steered the national team to consistent success.

His role in this team is different from any other role he ever had in any other team. And this is nice to enjoy because he is trying a brand new experience.

A microwave shooter and an underrated slasher all his life, Fernandez’s main role on the team was to score. This time, he assumes the role of the glue guy. Other players used to being stars would probably have difficulty adjusting to the new role (cough, Russell Westbrook, caught) but not the former Trail Blazer.

You don't expect a 37-year-old to dive for loose balls and risk career-ending injuries. But The Smooth Criminal did it without qualms. Against Finland, Fernandez registered five steals, setting the tone for his much younger teammates.

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Looking at his efficiency numbers, Fernandez is registering a 12.5 efficiency rating in the current tournament, the highest he has recorded since the 13.7 efficiency rating during the 2013 EuroBasket. Rudy is also assisting more this tournament with 2.5 per game, which is the highest since the 2015 EuroBasket.

Despite having the skills of a Swiss army knife, Rudy only lasted in the NBA for four years. Perhaps, he wasn’t utilized where he could contribute the most. Rudy became a spot-up shooter in Portland, but injuries prevented him from showing his capabilities. But at least he managed to walk away from the NBA and accepted that there’s still life playing outside the U.S.

Rudy Fernandez remains the heart of the Spanish national team

In a team full of young and relatively inexperienced players on the international stage, Rudy is willing his team to reach the promised land at the expense of his health. Gone are Ricky Rubio, Pau and Marc Gasol, Sergio Rodriguez, Alex Abrines and Victor Claver. Names that have carried the Spain national team to the promised land all these years and have become synonymous with winning. After all, with Scariolo at the wheel, Spain reached the final eight 21 times and the 11th straight semifinals appearance since 1999; the common denominator in those squads: Rudy Fernandez.

Being the oldest in the lineup at 37, Rudy expectedly gets the mentor role. Someone who’s respected in the locker room. The next old guy on the roster is 32-year-old Lorenzo Brown, who just became a part of the team this summer. Brown’s signing was controversial after he decided to forego his American citizenship to play for La Roja.

The rest of the guys are below 30, while the average team age stands at 27. This team is also among the shortest, with an average height of 6’6”. That means everyone needs to punch above their weight. The gaping holes left by retired or unavailable old reliables must be filled up. Rudy has embraced different roles this time: hustle player, energy player, locker room voice, pesky defender, all of which are not the types he’s accustomed to doing in the past Spanish basketball teams he was in.

Credits must be given to Sergio Scariolo for building a winner’s mentality no matter who his players are, but Fernandez must also be praised for continuing to defy Father Time. Sometimes, the most important player in any squad is the one who has the most experience. 

Fans should appreciate him while he’s still playing. There will never be another Rudy Fernandez risking it all to win. It’s time basketball fans respect his name the way they revere Rubios, Navarros, and Gasols. 

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