OAKLAND –- With a roster built around returning players, an easily identifiable core led by MVP Stephen Curry, the Warriors enter defense of their NBA title without truly pertinent questions.
There is one issue, however, that hangs in the air around the team and its fans: Who will be the 3-point threat off the bench?
With most of the debate surrounding Chris Babb, Ian Clark and Jarell Eddie – three newcomers who will arrive at camp next week hoping to fill that role – it’s as if Brandon Rush is invisible. Or forgotten. Or, perhaps, simply dismissed.
Rush, a veteran wing who gilded his resume with 3-point shooting, understands he contributed little to the Warriors’ championship run.
“It was a bad year for me, an awful year,” Rush told CSNBayArea.com on Wednesday. “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.”
The man who shot 41.3 percent from deep in his first four NBA seasons – including 45.2 percent with the Warriors in 2011-12 – shot 11.1 percent from beyond the arc and only 20.4 percent overall. Rush was so far off his game that coach Steve Kerr couldn’t rely on him. Rush played only 271 minutes and had 44 DNP-CDs.
It was steep descent for the veteran who returned to the Warriors in July 2014 in hopes of providing scoring off the bench. Rush arrived at training camp in September with a back injury, his body never fully recovered and his game never resurfaced.
Rush was so far down the bench, deservedly, that he was unrecognizable.
“That’s what some of my teammates said, too,” Rush recalls. “They were like, ‘Man, we don’t even know who you are?’ They were being honest with me.”
So after a season in which his shot abandoned him, hijacking his confidence, Rush says he spent the summer hunting for both. He believes he rediscovered himself on the courts of Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
“I played a lot of pickup games,” Rush said. “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’ve shot in the mid-40s for most of my career. To be able to go out there last year and not be able to make a shot, not be able to play . . . it made me hungry to get into the gym and go hard this summer.”
Rush, 30, says his confidence is back. His physique appears sleeker. With training camp getting under way next week, he hopes to make an impression. He wants to remind people he has something to offer. He was, after all, a remarkably good sixth man – the best two-way player on Mark Jackson’s first team with the Warriors in 2011-12.
“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.”