The basketball gods must really love Brandon Rush. He's frustrated coaches and fans alike in college and the pros. Yet, there he is, playing with that half smile, wide eyes and freakish bounce in his game that leaves everyone he crosses paths with begging for more. He can't seem to seize a game or exploit his physical talent, but basketball continues to shine on him.
Rush could never carry his talented Kansas team, but he showed up big when the Jayhawks won the national championship. Now in the NBA, injuries have created far more minutes than his play has deserved. His rookie season was erratic but ended with great promise. That promise quickly evaporated in this his second year, when once again Rush started floating through a golden opportunity to establish himself as a key player for the Pacers.
In the first 18 games of the season, Rush has had what I would call five good games and three decent games, the remaining ten games saw little impact from Rush. Four of those five "good" games were in wins which shows the impact he can have producing as a third or fourth option on the floor. These weren't great games, mind you, but good games pitching in on the glass as well as on offense.
But simply offering the Pacers "good" 28% of the time rates Rush somewhere below unreliable along with highly frustrating. Ironically, Rush gets another chance to start when Jerryd Bayless and the Portland Trail Blazers visit the Fieldhouse on Wednesday night. I've watched Bayless and the Blazers quite a bit lately and couldn't help but notice how Bayless and Rush seem like polar opposites.
Bayless has struggled to get any playing time and only after a few injuries depleted the Blazers' rotation has he earned some steady minutes. And even now with a spot in the rotation, Bayless appears to be on a short leash no matter how well he's playing.
Meanwhile, Rush can't seem to play himself out of extended minutes no matter how hard he tries. After starting the first 15 games, Jim O'Brien had seen enough and decided to move Rush out of the regular rotation only giving the second-year guard the scrap minutes left over from Mike Dunleavy's playing limitations.
Just when it appeared Rush wouldn't be heard from for awhile, Danny Granger goes down and Rush is suddenly back in the starting lineup. Jim O'Brien needs to use Rush extensively now because he doesn't want to eat up Dunleavy's minutes too early by starting him. So once again, everyone is pumping up Rush's game hoping the good Rush shows up to help fill the void left by Granger's absence.
The contrast between the two guards extends past their playing time and to how they play. Rush is a hoops specimen with all of the physical tools. He is like a greyhound, with quicks, hops and size at the guard spot. Unfortunately he struggles to sync up all three of those characteristics consistently, instead floating at times and just blending into the action.
Bayless is plenty athletic, as well, although undersized for his guard skills which translate more to a two guard than point guard. But the guy is in full attack mode on both ends of the floor, pedal to the metal trying to make an impact. At times, he's like a wild man on the floor, trying to squeeze a week's worth of production into his 10-15 minutes of time he desperately craves.
Bayless needs to harness all of that energy to become a more productive and complete player, but I'd certainly prefer to slow down a player like Bayless then to have to amp up a guy like Rush. If only the basketball gods could meld these two guys together and create a pair of perfect wings for both teams, everyone would be happy. Actually I think they already did, his name is Brandon Roy.