Count Brandon Rush among those who were looking forward to a fresh start on New Year’s Eve, as December faded into January.
"This is gonna be a better year for me," the Jazz guard wrote on Twitter just a few minutes after midnight on Jan. 1.
Jazz vs. CavaliersAt EnergySolutions Arena
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Records » Jazz 12-25; Cavs 12-23
About the Jazz » Gordon Hayward scored the team’s final 17 points in a 112-101 win over the Thunder on Tuesday. … After some struggles, center Enes Kanter has put together three straight double-digit scoring games. … Jazz assistant Alex Jensen was the head coach of Cleveland’s D-League team, the Canton Charge, from 2011-13.
About the Cavs » Traded disgruntled center Andrew Bynum to Chicago for forward Luol Deng, who is expected to make his first appearance for his new club in Salt Lake. … Point guard Kyrie Irving is averaging 22 points and 6.1 assists a night. … Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 overall draft pick in June, is putting up just 2.5 points in 10.7 minutes a game.
For the 28-year-old out of Kansas, 2013 couldn’t have been much worse on a professional level. He blew out his knee just two games in to last season and spent the remainder of the year off the court. In the offseason, he was traded out of Golden State. And when he finally made his return to the court for the Utah Jazz, Rush struggled in a way he’d never experienced.
Still he remains optimistic.
"It was difficult, with the injury and everything, coming back and not being ready," he said. "I think this year is going to be better for me."
Rush may yet be right about that.
On Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Rush logged 11 minutes. He grabbed one rebound, recorded one assist and hit two of his four attempts for five points.
It was hardly anything to write home about for a sixth-year pro who has shot better than 41 percent from 3 for in his career. But considering Rush’s struggles over the last months of 2013, Tuesday was something of a breakout.
Before that, Rush, who is averaging career lows in essentially every statistical category, had gone six straight games without a bucket. And following that stretch, Rush went four games in a row without getting off the bench.
"It was getting to me a little bit," he said. "Guys were just telling me to stay with it."
Rush’s confidence had waned since blowing out his knee while going up for a dunk last season against Memphis. He’s dealt with a mental block fighting back from injury, a problem made no easier as Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant and other players coming back from major injuries went down again.
"Every time I try to go in the lane and take a bump, it comes back in my mind a little bit," he said. "But I’m trying to get over it."
On Tuesday, Rush hit a pair of buckets and looked as comfortable on the floor as he has all season.
"He just played," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. "I think [Tuesday] was a step in the right way."
"My uncle text me after the game that he didn’t see any hesitation and I was aggressive the whole time," Rush said. "I’ve been doing that in practice, playing with no hesitation. … I just want it to carry over to games."
If Rush can find has way back to pre-injury form, it would be a welcomed addition to the Jazz roster. He averages 8.7 points a game for his career and is a consistent deep threat. Rush could spell Gordon Hayward, Richard Jefferson or Alec Burks at times.
Or, reasonably priced at $4 million this season, Rush could become one of the team’s best trade assets in the run up to the Feb. 20 deadline.
A resurgence would certainly be beneficial to Rush, who is in the final year of his contract, though he says it’s not an issue he’s concerned about.
"I don’t think about that at all," he said. "I just think about getting better every game, trying to help the team win and things will go from there. Two-thousand-fourteen will be a good year for me."
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