Spanish point guard won't wait to launch NBA career
by: Christopher Onstott, Blazers first-round draft pick Sergio Rodriguez signs an autograph for a young fan at a Wednesday afternoon appearance.

Sergio Rodriguez, the young point guard drafted by the Trail Blazers last week because of his potential, is going to get his shot with the NBA club sooner than expected.

The 6-3 Spanish star is expected to sign a contract in the next few days and be on hand for the start of Portland's training camp in October.

'(Agent) Herb Rudoy is coming into town, and we'll start contract talks,' Portland President Steve Patterson said Wednesday. 'We have some issues with FIBA (the international basketball governing body) and his Spanish team (Adecco Estudiantes Madrid), but we think we'll be able to get that taken care of and have Sergio in training camp in the fall.'

Rodriguez, who turned 20 in June, earned the sobriquets 'Spanish Chocolate' and 'Spanish Magician' for his flamboyant style on the hardcourts in Spain the last three years. Comparisons to Miami's Jason Williams are often offered; Patterson mentions the late, great Pete Maravich.

'I like the style of Jason Williams,' Rodriguez said during a Wednesday press conference in downtown Portland. 'I always imitated him back home. but I'm not as crazy as he is. I really like Steve Nash, too. I like to play fast like he does, and he has more structure to his game.'

Rodriguez has long been aware of Portland's NBA team because of a countryman who played there long ago.

'Fernando Martin was the first Spanish player in the NBA, and he played for the Trail Blazers,' Rodriguez said of the forward who played 24 games with the Blazers in the 1986-87 season. 'Fernando was very well-known in Spain, so people (in Spain) know about the Trail Blazers.'

Rodriguez will fly Thursday to Las Vegas to meet with the Blazer coaching staff, there working with the franchise's summer league team. Rodriguez will not play for the Blazers in Las Vegas. He is committed to the Spanish national team that will participate in the world championships in Japan this summer.

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