Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sergio Rodriguez

Blazer fans supported Sergio in a big way last season. How could we not be drawn in? In his limited minutes, we were dazzled. We were entertained. We wondered why Sergio wasn't getting more playing time. Fans and local media alike were being swept away. Although I think the original John Canzano article has been removed from the OregonLive website (thank god the FanHouse picked up on this, I remember the quote but hadn't been able to track down the article) that second link quotes the man's thoughts on Sergio:

"his upside is that of Tony Parker or Steve Nash or Jason Kidd."

Spanish Chocolate-mania got way out of control. It was like a tornado encompassing the entire city. We happily went around reaffirming his true greatness to each other. Yes, we Bill Brasky'd the situation. He could eat a hammer and take a shotgun blast standing. Indeed.

This climate in the city made it hard not to get swept up. Henry Abbot, a Blazer fan with the benefit of a continent-sized geographic buffer between him and all this insanity tried to remind us:

"I can't say I feel he's going to be an All-Star or anything like that. My take is: he should be put in a position to freewheel, because it's a beautiful thing to watch and it makes his teammates so much better."

Whatever, dude. Not an All-Star or 'anything' like that? Obviously, you've never seen it. This was some sort of super NashParkerKiddBrasky hybrid we had here.

There were the facts we were conveniently ignoring. Sergio was really, really inconsistent. Sergio wasn't playing much defense. Sergio didn't seem to be able to run a whole lot of set plays successfully. A frustrated Nate McMillan tried to explain it back in March, forgetting he was dealing with a city gone mad:

"With fans, it's about entertainment," McMillan said. "But I say, 'Does that entertainment win?' I mean, they have no idea. . . . All they see is what he does offensively. I don't think they ever watch what he does on the defensive end. They see him pounding the ball, and he has that ball on a string, and his no-look passes. There is so much more to it, though. They don't see that in calling out plays, nobody hears him or understands his accent."

Fast-forward to summer ball. The Blazers figure what Sergio really needs is to learn how to play consistently for longer minutes. We are always getting reminders of how summer league doesn't matter, but for Sergio, it did. The Blazers wanted proof he could be productive playing substantial minutes, even if only against semi-NBA players. Statistically, you can make a case that 8, 4, and 5 a game is not a terrible line. But when you factor in the level of competition, a very disturbing lack of defense, and still more inconsistency, the ceiling comes down a little from the likes of Kidd, Nash, and Parker.

If I may quote myself after watching the third game of summer league (I edited some to spare you):

"I was eager to see if Sergio Rodriguez could be the best pointguard on the floor Game 1 it was actually Taurean game 2 it was Jose Juan Barea of the Mavs...Sergio decently ran the point much of the night, and was able to penetrate and use that creative play-making ability that gets us all giddy. Then you look up and realize Crittenton has 26 points. Farmar got 17 in only 13 minutes....Sergio has scary defensive lapses."

Summer league was a wake up call. For fans, for media, and for the Blazers. Do you think Portland would have signed Steve Blake otherwise? Sergio isn't ready to be the main backup. He's 21 years old, still young, but this has to be considered behind schedule for greatness. Want to see what Tony Parker was up to when he was 21? No you don't, its depressing.

Right now, Sergio is playing for his Spanish National Team in the Euro Championships. He is currently averaging 2 points and 1.6 assists in 8 minutes per. He's on a loaded international roster, to be sure. Its still pretty sobering. I liked it better when he was Bill Brasky.

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