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2015-16 Warriors season review: Brandon Rush's up and down career with Golden State

We look back on the roller coaster career of Brandon Rush who regained his confidence and improved dramatically in the 2015-16 season after an abysmal two year stretch.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Where does one begin the story of Brandon Rush's NBA career, which until this season abstractly resembles a story arc similar to a Shakespearean tragedy.

The former Kansas standout compiled an impressive college career. After tearing his right ACL in 2007 Rush battled back to lead the Jayhawks to the 2008 National Championship title, earning MVP honors along the way. The two time John Wooden Award finalist was considered one of the top wings in the 2008 draft which culminated when Rush was selected as the 13th pick of the first round.

Rush averaged 9.1 points per game on 40 percent shooting from deep through his first three seasons with the Indiana Pacers. In 2011, the 6-foot-6 swing man was traded to the Golden State Warriors straight up for energetic big man Lou Amundson.

The Kansas City, MO. native played his best season statistically in 2011-12 with Golden State when he averaged career highs in scoring (9.8 ppg), field goal percentage (50.1%) and three-point percentage (45.2%). Rush's play garnered attention and put him in the talks as one of the league's best players to come off the bench.

Unfortunately for Rush, his career trajectory took a nose dive the following year. In just the second game of the season Rush suffered yet another debilitating knee injury, tearing both his ACL and MCL in his left knee after being hit from behind in mid-air while attempting a dunk.

After playing in only two games Rush missed the remainder of the 2012-13 season. He was then included in a blockbuster three-team trade after the season in which the Warriors packaged Rush along with Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson to the Utah Jazz in the deal that facilitated the acquisition of Andre Iguodala from the Denver Nuggets.

Utah did not serve Rush well as he averaged 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds in 38 appearances as part of a comeback attempt with the Jazz in 2013. After a forgettable season in Utah, Golden State re-signed Rush to a two-year deal in an effort to bolster a rather weak bench for the budding Warriors.

However things did not go as planned for either party. There was an excitement among fans that Rush would return to his former sixth man of the year candidate self to help Golden State finally make a deep playoff push. But instead of taking a step forward, Rush took three steps backwards.

Rush averaged only eight minutes in 33 games in the 2014-2015 season, totaling career lows in points (0.9 ppg), field goal percentage (20%), three-point percentage (11%) and just about every other statistical category imaginable. Rush was a shell of his former self and noticeably lacked confidence on the court.

As the Warriors enjoyed their first NBA championship in 40 years, Rush appeared in only three playoff games and was forced to trade in his jersey for a suit. In what should be his happiest moment as a professional basketball player, Rush's career seemingly hung on by a thread.

It is as this very moment that Brandon Rush's career begins to feel like the final act of the Shakespearean tragedy King Lear. Rush's career abstractly resembles the character Cordelia with DubNation starring as King Lear. Despite the grief of his injuries and horrible stint with Utah, Rush returns to the Warriors with a flash of misguided hope. Thinking that his career may come back to life, Warriors' fans all but give up on the idea of Rush playing meaningful minutes. This false hope acts as the most depressing moment of all.

However this tragedy is far from over, much like Brandon Rush's career.


Rush stepped up to the plate in a big way for the Warriors in the 2015-16 season. "I wasn't mentally ready last year," Rush told Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star. "I was kind of heavy, so I came into this year's training camp in shape, back at my playing weight before the injury and focused on my body. I had to get my body and mind ready."

After winning a championship with the Warriors the previous season, Rush joins Mario Chalmers and Clyde Lovellette as the only Kansas players to win both an NCAA and NBA championship. Even with a proven track record of success under his belt, Rush visibly lacked confidence on the basketball court in the 2014-15 season.

But Brandon Rush proved once again his ability to overcome immense adversity. When Warriors' starter Harrison Barnes went down with an ankle injury in late November, Rush capitalized on the opportunity.

"He had a rough season a year ago, still recovering from the horrible knee injury." said Warriors coach Steve Kerr back in April. "This year when Harrison got hurt, he was ready. He kind of regained his confidence. He's been really key for us. To see his success, the entire staff is happy for him."

Rush scored the most points in a season since his first stint with Golden State in 2011. While he averaged a meager 4.2 ppg, he connected from deep at an impressive 41% clip. Rush played in 72 games, 25 of which he started for the 73 win Warriors who will forever be in the argument as one of the greatest regular season teams of all time.

"Coming back this year and being a part of this group that broke the record (with) 73 wins, it's an amazing feeling," Rush told Kerkhoff. "I've gotten the chance to play more than I did last year, which is great after the injury I had...It gave me a chance to show I could still play in the NBA."

In comparison to his two previous seasons, Rush improved in 2015-16 by leaps and bounds. In his 25 games as a starter, Rush averaged 7.0 ppg on 50% shooting from the field and 49% from deep. He played in the most games since 2010 and made solid contributions all season long.

Rush had his best game of the season on January 8th against the Portland Trail Blazers, scoring a season-high 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field, including a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc.

As a new era of Golden State Warriors basketball (that is headlined by the addition of Kevin Durant) arrives, Brandon Rush departs. The 31 year-old (who actually turns 31 today, July 8th) NBA veteran is expected to sign a one-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves worth $3.5 million.

"We're really excited, it's a great fit for Brandon," Rush's agent Mark Bartelstein told the Minnesota Star Tribune's Kent Youngblood. "It's a good situation, with a new program in town and an up-and-coming young team."

Rush is one of 11 players in NBA history to have a career three-point shooting percentage of 40% or higher with a minimum of 1,000 attempts. Minnesota will receive a talented "three and D" player that brings gritty championship experience to an awfully young squad.

Rush certainly has more left in his tank and is presumably hungry to prove to the rest of the league that he can still play. If all goes well for both parties, the Warriors could possibly meet Rush and the Tinderpups in a first round matchup in next year's playoffs.

I speak on behalf of all of DubNation in wishing Brandon Rush the best of luck in Minnesota and his future career endeavors.

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