- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2011

DALLAS (AP) - Eventually, Jordan Hamilton or another guy taken late in the first round of this year’s NBA draft will blossom into a quality player, perhaps even an All-Star.

The Dallas Mavericks don’t want to wait.

Fresh off their first championship, the Mavericks are determined to stay on top. So they gave up the uncertainty and potential of a draft pick for a known commodity in Portland guard Rudy Fernandez.

“He’s a guy that can step right in and help us right away,” said Donnie Nelson, Dallas’ president of basketball operations. “The experience factor was the thing that brought it over the top. … There’s less risk involved. He’s NBA playoff battle-tested. It was kind of a perfect storm for us.”

At 26, Fernandez is older than a rookie but still younger than most of the Mavericks.

With three years in the NBA, he knows how the league works. Add the years the Spaniard has played internationally, and he’s even more of a veteran.

Most of all, the Mavs like that the 6-foot-6, 185-pound Fernandez is bigger and more athletic than most of their shooting guards. He’s shown he can play 20-plus minutes a game, get to the rim and make 3-pointers. He hasn’t done it consistently, though, which is why the Trail Blazers were willing to deal him for a late first-round pick.

“He’s a guy we’ve had our eye on for a while,” Nelson said. “It was kind of right place, right time.”

Fernandez has averaged 9.1 points over 24.1 minutes in his career. He made 40 percent of his 3s as a rookie, but his accuracy has dipped every season.

A change of scenery, and a new coaching scheme, could juice up his numbers. So could a change in role: starter.

DeShawn Stevenson was the primary starter at shooting guard last season and in the playoffs. He’s a free agent, though, and the Mavs have other priorities, primarily trying to keep Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and Caron Butler. Fernandez would have to beat out other guys already on the roster, but he will certainly be in the mix.

There’s also a catch to this starting job. The backup, Jason Terry, is likely to play more minutes, especially during crunch time. Thus, Fernandez could average about the same minutes he had in Portland, but he’d have a bigger role on a better team.

No wonder his first reaction was a tweet filled with exclamation points: “So happy to be in the best team in the nba!!!dallas!!!”

NBA finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki expects Fernandez to fit in nicely with the Mavericks.

“He wanted out (of Portland) and the whole situation for him wasn’t great,” Nowitzki said after throwing out the first pitch at a Texas Rangers game. “But when you come to a team that has great team chemistry, good leaders and veterans, guys always fit in well and they want to win and sacrifice. In this case, I think he’s going to be great for the team.”

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