Golden State Warriors: Brandon Rush is the Missing Link


It wasn’t too long ago that Brandon Rush of the Golden State Warriors was considered a possible candidate for Sixth Man of the Year honors.

In the 2011-2012 NBA season, Rush averaged 9.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.9 blocks in 26.4 minutes per game playing off the bench. He also shot an impressive 50.1 percent from the line and 45.2 percent from behind the arc, filling into the role of being Golden State’s “3 and D” guy.

In fact, it wasn’t entirely crazy to think that Rush was the Warriors’ best perimeter defender at that time.

Then the unimaginable happened: on the Warriors’ Opening Night at Oracle Arena, Rush came down awkwardly after receiving a hard foul in midair from Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph. Rush had received a pass from Klay Thompson in transition and proceeded to rise for the dunk, but the contact from Randolph caused Rush to come down at an angle that made his knee bend badly, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.

He was 27 years old at the time of the injury, just having recently signed a two-year contract with the Warriors worth roughly $8 million. A former NCAA champion during his tenure at Kansas, the former 13th overall pick was set for a breakout season with Golden State. His future was looking extremely bright prior to his injury, which likely factored into Rush’s display of anger following the Randolph play.

His agent, Mark Bartelstein, released a statement to ESPN following the injury report.

"“He’s not doing great. He’s devastated as you can imagine,” said Bartelstein. “It’s a traumatic thing to go through for anybody. We’re going to figure it out and work with the Warriors and come up with a great plan to get him back. But for the moment, it’s devastating with surgery and rehab ahead of you.”"

Adding insult to injury, Rush was forced to watch as his team made the playoffs for the first time in nearly six years, after which the Warriors were forced to deal Rush to the Utah Jazz to clear some cap space for Andre Iguodala in free agency. Rush then spent a year with the Jazz before choosing to sign back with the Warriors on a two-year minimum deal.

Though Iguodala had clearly replaced Rush as the team’s best perimeter defender and Rush’s role was unclear going into the 2014-15 NBA season, everything seemed to had come full circle for Rush. Many hoped he would return to form in Steve Kerr‘s system, but that would unfortunately not become the case. He finished last season — a championship season for Golden State — averaging just 0.9 points and 1.2 rebounds in 271 total minutes played.

Now 30 years old, Rush told Monte Poole of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area how he felt about not being much of contributor to the Warriors’ title run.

"“It was a bad year for me, an awful year,” Rush said. “It was one of the worst years I’ve ever had, individually.“I enjoyed the ride. But I wanted to be a part of it. Honestly, the trophy . . . I didn’t have a part in that. I’m still part of the team, but it doesn’t feel the same for me.”"

Going into the 2015 preseason, it became clear that the team was in the market for a backup perimeter shooter, preferably a shooting guard that could help space the floor in the second unit. The team got a hold of guys like Chris Babb, Jarell Eddie and Ian Clark in training camp, and thus far Clark has been the most impressive training camp invitee due to the effort he’s displayed nearly every single night.

But what if the player that’s best able to fill the role of being a second-unit floor spacer has been right there all along?

Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

It’s difficult trying to find the faith needed to believe in Rush after being let down last year, but in the preseason, he’s shown that he’s really gotten some of his confidence back and is ready for a resurgence. Though it’s just preseason, Rush has averaged 5.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.9 steals in 18 minutes off the bench. He also remains a 40.1 percent career three-point shooter.

Rush has had his ups and downs throughout the seven preseason games he’s played with Golden State, but things are looking up for Rush as Opening Night draws near. He hasn’t had much time to prove himself (just 130 total minutes to be exact) and has put up sup-par shooting percentages thus far in the preseason (38.2% FG, 31.3% 3P), but the vibe around Rush has been nothing but positive.

Really the one thing that Rush needs to continue improving is his confidence. Last year, Rush seemed way too passive during his time on the floor, and many of his shots fell short of the basket due to his legs not being under him. If Rush can continue building his confidence, the search for Golden State’s backup shooter may end with Rush picking up where he left off in 2012.

"When I talked to coach Kerr in the exit interview, he just told me, straight up, ‘You need to play. You need to get your rhythm and confidence back.’ So for the last few months, I’ve been playing pickup and working out.“I want to get out there bad,” Rush said. “This was one of the best summers I’ve ever had. I was just putting in work, getting my legs stronger. I’m ready to be the old B-Rush.”"

Safe to say DubNation is just as ready, too. #4BRush

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