Fernando Grinds Out Four Games in Four Days
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images
Story by KL Chouinard
Bruno Fernando set a career high in scoring last Monday with 13 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Ordinarily, a rookie setting a career high in his 17th NBA game would not fall far from the ordinary pattern of things. With the small base of games, it's perfectly normal – even expected – for a rookie to hit his high-water mark in points. For Fernando, though, the achievement stood out because he managed the feat after a terrific feat of endurance: he was playing his fourth game in four days.
To be clear, the NBA did not assign the Hawks a diabolical turn of schedule. Three of Fernando's games came with the Hawks: Friday night on the road against the Detroit Pistons, plus Saturday and Monday nights at home in State Farm Arena. Fernando picked up the fourth game through an assignment to the College Park Skyhawks, where he contributed to the Bayhawks' win with 9 points and 9 rebounds in 30 minutes.
Sunday's catch? It was a day game. After finding out at 10:30 PM Saturday that he would be getting a stint with the Hawks' G League affiliate, Fernando was up early to prep for a 2:00 PM tip.
"I was up at 8:00," Fernando said, "they picked me up at 9:45 and I was there at 10:30 and we did a walk-through on the court."
Luckily for Fernando, he knew most of what he needed to know before the arrived at Gateway Center Arena. He played with a number of the Bayhawks in Summer League, and other than a few sideline and baseline out-of-bounds plays, the two teams run most of the same sets.
"I feel it more so today than anything," Fernando said Tuesday morning after the four-game burst. I'm not extremely tired – like exhausted – but it's that feeling where my legs hit me a little bit today."
Then Fernando smiled and reversed course.
"If I had a game, I would be able to play."
Fernando credited a rigorous devotion to stretching for helping him recover quickly enough for each game, and he said that he had not played four games in four days since his AAU days.
"And even then," he added, "the intensity was nothing like it is here."
That intensity level is what head coach Lloyd Pierce sees as the biggest adjustment as Fernando adapts to the NBA game.
"The speed of the game is probably the biggest challenge for him," Pierce said. "He has been a big, physical, featured played at the collegiate level. And he's a big, physical, complementary player at this level, who is learning how to play against guys who are equally as big – or bigger – and a lot faster."
For the season, Fernando is averaging 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds while playing a little over 12 minutes per game off the bench. In addition to his 13 points Monday, he also added 4 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block.
"His first half yesterday was pretty good," Pierce said. "I thought he was aggressive going to the offensive glass. I thought he was physical defending (Karl-Anthony Towns) in the post. It was nice to see him make a three in the second half as well."
The Hawks faded in that second half, eventually losing their seventh consecutive game. The locker room was mostly a sober affair afterward, Fernando included. But when asked whether he would need the day off that Pierce had promised, Fernando rejected the idea with a note of levity.
"I feel great. I'm only 21!"
True to his word, Fernando practiced the following morning.