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News » Fernandez plans (wink) 'a surprise'

Fernandez plans (wink) 'a surprise'

Fernandez plans (wink) 'a surprise'
Fernandez plans (wink) 'a surprise' Olympics,


votes help


TUALATIN --With a sly smile and a wink, Rudy Fernandez playfully evaded one of the most curious issues surrounding his upcoming foray into the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

Asked if he had been practicing any special dunks or if he planned to reveal any secrets from his high-flying arsenal before the All-Star weekend event, Fernandez remained coy.

"It's a surprise," he said, flashing that wink and smile during a news conference Monday at the Trail Blazers practice facility.

In a first-time balloting by fans, Fernandez, the Blazers' dazzling rookie from Spain, earned more than half of the vote (251,868 total) to surpass fellow rookies Joe Alexander of Milwaukee and Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City and become the first international player to compete in the dunk contest.

Fernandez, who has quickly developed into a fan favorite with his no-look passing, long-range shooting and general showmanship, will take his act to the national stage in Phoenix, competing against Rudy Gay of Memphis and two past champions, Orlando's Dwight Howard (2008) and New York's Nate Robinson (2006).

Fernandez, who grew up an avid NBA fan in a country more known for its soccer, used to wake up at 4 a.m. as a kid to watch Vince Carter and others compete in the dunk contest. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward said two issues helped push him from fan to participant.

The first occurred before he played his first NBA game, at the 2008 Olympics where Fernandez, playing for Spain, completed a jaw-dropping one-handed dunk over Howard and Team USA in the gold medal game. Millions watched the dunk live and later online, giving Fernandez instant dunk credibility.

Also, Fernandez believes he received a healthy dose of love from voters in Spain.

"I think it's for the dunk in the Olympic Games," he said. "I have an advantage over Alexander and Russell Westbrook because I played in Europe. Not only in Spain, but Italy. They voted me."

Fernandez, Westbrook and Alexander lobbied for votes through a series of videos that were posted online. The light-hearted and playful Rodriguez was on full display in the clips, even grabbing an acoustic guitar and ad libbing a humorous song asking for votes --yet another boost to his popularity.

"It's very famous, the song, now in Spain," Fernandez said, joking. "I think it's very good. The NBA proposed to me the song and guitar. I think I'm better at playing Basketball. I'm not a singer."

A more serious issue concerning Fernandez's inclusion in the contest is his sprained left foot, which caused him to miss last Wednesday's game at Philadelphia. Fernandez said that while the foot is a concern, treatment has helped and he is optimistic he'll be available for All-Star weekend.

If so, it will be the second dunk exhibition for Fernandez. Four years ago, he finished second in a Euroleague contest. A quick Internet search did not reveal any highlights from that event, so any gimmicks or special dunks Fernandez is concealing will remain a mystery until Feb. 14.

"I'm nervous, but I'm prepared," Fernandez said. "I'm happy (for this opportunity)."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: January 22, 2009


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