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Thursday, March 26, 2009

After slow start in NBA, Rush making major strides

Indiana guard Brandon Rush, front, goes to the bucket in the Pacers’ 90-88 victory over the Heat on Wednesday in Indianapolis. After a slow start to his NBA career, Rush has began to see his playing time and confidence level rise with the Pacers.

Indiana guard Brandon Rush, front, goes to the bucket in the Pacers’ 90-88 victory over the Heat on Wednesday in Indianapolis. After a slow start to his NBA career, Rush has began to see his playing time and confidence level rise with the Pacers.

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Kansas men watch Rush and Chalmers in Pacers game

The Kansas men were courtside at Conseco Fieldhouse to check out two former Jayhawks in action.

— Brandon Rush had the ball in the right corner and Dwyane Wade, one of the world’s best basketball players, was guarding him early in the first quarter. Rush pump-faked, Wade bit, and the rookie from Kansas drove around him. He passed the ball to the top of the key, ran to the left corner, caught a pass, and hit that jumper of his that comes right out of the West Point textbook. Swish.

“Home run,” the public address announcer bellowed.

Rush wouldn’t hit another three-pointer in the Indiana Pacers’ 90-88 victory against the Miami Heat, but he didn’t let that keep him from contributing. Rush guarded Wade so well on the game’s final shot — might Mario Chalmers have hit it if given the opportunity? — that Wade said he was “in my jersey.”

Told Wade said that, Rush grinned a proud grin and said, “Is that what he said?”

Down two points, Wade went for the victory with a step-back three-point attempt that went in and out.

Wade, the NBA’s leading scorer with a 29.9 average going into Wednesday night’s game at Conseco Fieldhouse, made just five of 24 shots from the field and scored 21 points.

“I think I played pretty good defense on him,” Rush said. “He’s awesome. He’s going to end up being MVP. I just challenged up on every shot he took and tried to stay in front of him. He’s a tough player to play. I think I did a pretty good job on him, a solid job on him.”

Of defending Wade’s final shot, Rush said, “He kind of froze me a little bit ’cuz I thought he was going to give me one of those pump fakes (and) try to go to the free throw line. He ended up stepping back and it went in and out. He had a tough shooting night tonight.”

The shot recalled Acie Law stepping back to hit a three-pointer from the right wing against Rush the last time Kansas lost a game in Allen Fieldhouse.

“Acie Law just gave me a quick fake and I jumped back real quick,” Rush said. “Dagger all in my face.”

Adapting to NBA life

Before Wednesday’s game in which Rush totaled 11 points and eight rebounds in 41 minutes, he talked about life in the NBA, his “roller coaster” rookie season and the current Jayhawks, who watched the game from the stands.

Rush said Chalmers visited him Tuesday night in the downtown condo Rush purchased. (He also bought a Cadillac Escalade and an S 550 Mercedes.)

What does Rush miss about the college life?

“You don’t have little college girls running around like you did at Kansas,” Rush said. “That’s the only change. Then not going to school. I didn’t like that too much.”

He didn’t like it, but did get a 4.0 grade-point average in his final semester.

He also said he misses KU’s homecourt.

“There’s never going to be anything that’s going to compare to Allen Fieldhouse,” Rush said. “Sold out every time we stepped on the floor.”

Even when he was riding the pine, though, Rush said he never regretted bypassing his senior year.

“It was the right time for us to come out,” Rush said. “We won the national championship. What else could we prove, other than that?”

Still room for improvement

Rush was making his ninth start on Wednesday. He’s averaging 6.6 points in 22.3 minutes.

Before the game, Pacers coach Jim O’Brien talked candidly about what he likes about Rush as a prospect and what he thinks he lacks.

“He had a little bit of a slow year, but he’s starting to become a much more confident player,” O’Brien said. “It was a matter of confidence. He’s in a very affirming environment from the standpoint that you always have the green light to shoot open shots. And he’s starting to show his ability at both ends of the court. We drafted him because he would be our best athlete and he is by far. We thought that he was a guy who could impact both the offensive and defensive end. His play over the last couple weeks has indicated that was the case. It’s going to be a matter of finishing this year with consistency and then starting next year with consistency because we feel he’s a an ideal guy to have opposite Danny Granger. ... We need to work as much as we can on aggressiveness. His personality is not one of aggressiveness, so it might be an uphill battle.”

Teammate Travis Diener indicated the light recently switched on for Rush.

“I think it’s day and night,” Diener said, comparing the Rush of today to the rookie who arrived at camp. “I think when he first got here he was a little timid. His confidence might not have been where it had been at Kansas. I can tell just in the last two weeks how far he’s come. His confidence is growing. He still could be more aggressive. He’s a great shooter.”

Thoughts on Collins, Aldrich

Rush said he is grateful for the three years he spent at Kansas and without them, he said, he would have had to work his way through the NBA Developmental League.

Asked if he would be surprised if Kansas sophomore center Cole Aldrich and junior guard Sherron Collins declared themselves eligible for the NBA draft, Rush said, “I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Cole averages a double-double and Sherron’s averaging 19. I think it’s a perfect time to come out. They took a young team to a Sweet 16. I think they’re ready for it.”

NBA scouts see it another way, wanting Aldrich to return to add strength and still not completely sold on Collins, given he was outplayed by Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, Arizona’s Nic Wise and Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas.

When future Kansas players make it to the NBA they would be well-served to do what Rush did during NBA Orientation, avoiding the trouble former Jayhawks Chalmers and Darrell Arthur encountered along with former Kansas State star Michael Beasley.

“I was in my room, chilling, by myself, laying low,” Rush said.

Comments

hometownhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

What an awkward - almost cheap - way to end a nice column. Can you not let that incident go, even in an article about an uninvolved party?

Gordon Penny 10 years, 10 months ago

This is kusports.com, dude. This site is infamous for rehashing the same old stories over and over and over every year, every chance they get.

Lance Hobson 10 years, 10 months ago

Good to see he's doing well. I think he'll be in the league for a long time.

5DecadeHawk 10 years, 10 months ago

Tom Keegan's slimbag writing is proof that intelligent life doesn't always begin at conception.

FIRE TOM KEEGAN!

Michael Pannacciulli 10 years, 10 months ago

With Granger there, it will be tough to get more time and build confidence. He always lacked that killer instinct that the great scorers have. Self used to ride him about that. He has all the talent and tools though.

Agreed about the rookie camp mishap...let it die please!

easyfive 10 years, 10 months ago

Keegan is not a KU fan. Never has or never will be! I think he is a OU fan, sometimes a antler too. It must be total hell for him to write KU stuff.

LJW, we would like it if, you would hire a KU fan to write for us. Keegan need to be retired and sent fishing. You could feel the hate he has for KU. I bet Greg G., C. Piper, or even M. Barman. Could do the job.

keeb1211 10 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, that's exactly what we need is a KU fan writing stuff about KU. Seems like a great recipe for unbiased journalism.

jahawkdave 10 years, 10 months ago

Don't we all miss the little college girls running around. Oh to be back in college

ChicagoJHawk 10 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, the LJW needs to quit bringing up the Chalmers/Arthur incident. I don't see why any TRUE KU fan would keep bringing it up, like someone else pointed out, in an article about a guy that wasn't even involved!

Also, “He kind of froze me a little bit ’cuz I thought..." You have to spell " 'cause" with a z because he's black?? I'm pretty sure you would have just spelled it 'cause if this article were about Aldrich/Reed. I normally like reading KUSports.com but sometimes these articles are a joke!

Well, I should say it was a good article, the ending was in bad taste.

d_prowess 10 years, 10 months ago

After reading both the Chalmers article and this one, it seems a shame that we can't transfer just a bit of the Mario's confidence to Brandon.
Hearing O'Brien say that teaching Rush aggressiveness will be an uphill battle is not good. KU struggled with that the whole time Rush was here except maybe last year's tournament. Hopefully some of the NBA swagger will give it to him!

JayCeph 10 years, 10 months ago

Chicago, are you really trying to make a racial issue? Perhaps you'd prefer an article like this one (from Jason Whitlock of the KCStar):

http://www.kansascity.com/sports/columnists/jason_whitlock/story/1106841.html

Pretty good race-baiting in that one. Only this time, it panders to an urban audience and treats the 'non-urban' crowd in a pedantic fashion. Is that okay by you?

I think it is sad (and ultimately quite disappointing) when we continually fall on racial crutches to illustrate a point or take a stand.

Here's my stand, if it doesn't relate to the game or the content of one's character, keep it off this board.

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