Over the years the Suns have frequently tried to hide Steve Nash on defense. Against the Spurs, it was Shawn Marion or even Boris Diaw that drew the Tony Parker assignment while Steve chilled with Bruce Bowen in the corner. Against the Hornets it was Chris Paul that got the Suns defensive best, while Steve was able to goof around with whatever inferior shooting guard New Orleans was stuck with.
But some teams, the Lakers and Mavericks come to mind, would not let the Suns get away with this tactic. They understand that you have to attack Steve and make him expend energy on the defensive end of the floor, not to mention take advantage of the mismatch created by playing a point guard on a bigger player.
The Portland Trail Blazers have yet to figure this out, and if they don't they will be fishing in the Puget Sound sooner, rather than later.
Between Games 1 and 2, I asked Rudy about this and probed to find out if he plans on being more aggressive against Nash. Rudy paused, drew in a deep breath, pondered for a moment and said, "I don't think so."
In Game 2 he proved true to his word. He completely ignored any opportunities to go at Nash.
We've seen Rudy Fernandez attack off the dribble in international play (who can forget his dunk on Dwight Howard?) and even last year he was getting to the paint far more than this season. His numbers all around are down in his second NBA year but this is no young kid. Rudy has been playing professional basketball since 2002. He knows better.
A former NBA player I spoke with this morning called Rudy "tissue paper" when I asked why Rudy wasn't attacking Nash more. Maybe.
Or maybe he's sullen over his decreased role or maybe in the tightly controlled Portland system his number is just not being called by his Drill Sergeant of a coach.
Whatever the reason, Rudy Fernandez is going to need to step up and prove that he can't be checked by Steve Nash if Portland has any hope of making this a series.
[Note by Seth Pollack, 04/21/10 1:09 PM MST ]
Goran Dragic played in Spain and is somewhat friends with Rudy. Here's what Goran had to say about Fernandez:
"I don't know what kind of situation is there with Rudy. I played against him in Spain and European Championships. He was totally different player on national team and in Spanish ACB league. I don't know. He had a lot of injury. He's totally different player than last year. Last year he was more aggressive and everything but this year, I don't know. Maybe he don't have enough confidence or something like that. I know he's a good player but maybe he just have a bad stretch."
Audio: Goran Dragic practice 042110 (Goran also talks about his playoff experience so far and his getting used to playing with Leandro again)