If you follow the league closely you know that it takes all types of players to construct a team. From stars, to veterans to role players, it takes the right mix of talent, experience and egos to propel an organization to its highest level. In this installment of our Road to Recovery series we catch up with Brandon Rush from the Golden State Warriors. He’s been a very good role player throughout his career who owns a 40 percent career average shooting from deep. But now he wants to carve out any niche the Warriors may need without any real agenda of his own.
After playing just 38 games with the Utah Jazz last season in an attempt to recover from the ACL injury that robbed him of all but 2 games in 2012-13, Rush is back playing for the Dubs despite being traded from them the previous summer. He took some time after a Warriors practice to discuss with us his rehab process, his troubles in Utah, why he returned to Golden State and all that is in store for him as the NBA season draws near.
[RELATED: Road to Recovery: Sixers center Nerlens Noel]
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Dime: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Brandon. You have had a somewhat of a difficult time these last few years. Where are you at currently with the health of your knees?
Brandon Rush: I’m 100 percent. I’ve been full speed in practice and haven’t had to take any days off. The knee is fine. I’m feeling great and ready for the season.
Dime: That’s great news. What has been the most difficult part of the process in returning for you personally?
BR: The most difficult part was just getting back into game type shape and just playing. I’ve been trying to play a lot of pickup games to get that rhythm back…just trying to get the whole feel back for the game.
Dime: Having suffered a knee injury in college did that give you confidence that you would be able to return this time on the opposite knee? Or did it mess with you in a negative way?
BR: Nah, it gave me some confidence because when I injured my knee in college it took me five months to get back. By the time the season was over in college I was feeling 100 percent. This time it took a little while. But finally I’ve managed to work hard and get my knee right and I’m feeling great again.
Dime: You were in a unique situation because you started the rehab process in Golden State then were traded to Utah last summer. How did that impact how you recovered having to adjust to a different medical staff?
BR: It was difficult. It was really difficult being traded to Utah because there was a lot of confusion going on and they didn’t know what to do with my situation. I didn’t rehab well in Utah so it took me a while. I mean once the season was over I had to start all over from zero.
Dime: Wow, I definitely want to get back to that. Throughout the rehab process who was most influential in keeping you motivated?
BR: Myself because I’ve been through it before. I knew what I had to do in order to get back to where I once was before the injury.
Dime: When you are working out rehabbing and maybe you need an extra push because you aren’t having the best day what gets you over the hump then? Do you have any music or inspirational quotes that maybe you call upon?
BR: I’d call my uncle. He’s one of my close friends and he’s been around me pretty much all my life. I’ll call him up and he keeps my head straight. He keeps me motivated telling me to keep my head up, keep working and that everything is going to be OK.
Dime: The NBA is known to be a brotherhood of sorts and when guys go down players reach out to one another. Did that happen for you and was there anyone specific who you spoke with?
BR: Oh yeah, my phone was blowing up. From people on twitter, to people all around the league they wished me luck and a speedy recovery. So yeah the league is just like a brotherhood and I had people reach out to me and wish me well.
Dime: So when you see other guys go down, like Paul George this summer, what’s that like for you as a player…do you feel the need to reach out yourself?
BR: Yeah definitely. That’s one of my good friends. We’ve been playing FIFA the last couple nights. I definitely reached out to him and gave him some words to keep him motivated and to keep his head up. He’s doing well. You know I did the same thing to my elbow when I was little so I know what he’s going through.
Dime: So you’ve been banged up a lot dating back to childhood?
BR: Yeah I’ve had some huge, big-time surgeries on my end.
Dime: Getting back to that situation in Utah. Do you feel that you were fully healthy last season playing for the Jazz?
BR: Nah, I wasn’t 100 percent but I was close, maybe like 80-85 (percent healthy). But my mind — my mental standpoint — wasn’t there. At times, [while] driving in traffic I was thinking too much. I mean everything just wasn’t going right, things weren’t clicking the right way. This summer I just worked on my body and played and that’s why I am feeling a lot better and at 100 percent.
Dime: So do you believe in the two-year theory in terms of how long it takes to truly come back from these types of injuries and that whole process?
BR: Yes I do because that first year you are just trying to get the feel back. That second year you feel like you’re more confident in the knee and that everything is going the right way.
Dime: You had a workout over the summer like a lot of free agents do but quickly decided to return to Golden State shortly after the workout. Why did you decide to return to them without giving other teams a chance to really evaluate you?
BR: I already knew where I wanted to be. I knew that they had a good team and that I wanted to go back. I knew it was part of the business on why I got traded from Golden State last summer. But I knew that they always loved me and that they wanted me here. It was a no brainer for me when they called me up and offered me a contract.
Dime: Your contract is guaranteed?
BR: Yes, everything is guaranteed. I got two years with a player option next year. So if I have a great season I can opt out and do other things. I’m in a great situation either way.
Dime: What has camp been like so far with new coach Steve Kerr especially with the dismissal of Mark Jackson? How have the guys adjusted to the new system?
BR: We are taking it fine. Everybody is taking it just fine. It’s a new system and new coach but we pretty much have the same players. So we already know what guys like to do and where they aren’t comfortable. Everything has been clicking pretty well for us in practice and we look to carry that on into the season. But he’s (Kerr) a great coach and he has a lot of experience. He knows what he wants from us.
Dime: There are a lot talented wings on the team and a lot of guys who play a similar position to you. Has your role been defined and how do you plan to stick out to earn playing time?
BR: Yeah but I’m not worried about that. I mean the majority of the minutes are going to go to Klay (Thompson). Hopefully I will be backing up Klay and getting some of those minutes. Also hope to get some minutes behind Iggy (Andre Iguodala) and Harrison (Barnes). I’m just trying to work hard in this training camp and to earn some minutes that way, too.
Dime: It’s great to have that positive attitude man. You’ve been a pretty prolific three-point shooter throughout your career, but what other parts of your game have developed while you have been recovering? Did you fine tune anything specifically?
BR: I’ve been working on being more of a playmaker in pick-and-roll situations. I’ve always looked for the shot more in that situation instead of making plays for others. So I’ve just been trying to do that — I just want to be a better playmaker. You can earn more minutes that way, too.
Dime: So your ball handling is the new wrinkle?
BR: Yes, definitely my ball handling.
Dime: Finally can you share both your personal goals for this season and where you think the Warriors may be able to go realistically this season?
BR: My personal goal is to play all 82 games. That’s definitely something I want to do for me. For us, the Warriors, we want to contend for championship. We’ve got the squad for it with Steph (Curry) and Klay and all the core guys. Everything is looking up for us.
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