Utah Jazz: California transplants hope to find steady roles in Utah

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2 2013 7:55 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz guard Earl Watson (11) defends Golden State's #4 Brandon Rush as the Utah Jazz and the Golden State Warriors play Friday, April 6, 2012 in Salt Lake City. Jazz won 104-98.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Brandon Rush was in a tropical paradise this summer when he found out he’d spend this winter in a state known for its snow.

“I was actually in Hawaii at the time I got traded,” he said. “It kind of ruined my moment.”

It didn’t take long for him to embrace his new situation after being traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Utah Jazz in that big, three-team deal this offseason.

“I think it’s what’s best for me. I ended up at a place where there’s a great opportunity for a lot of playing time,” Rush said. “I’m happy where I’m at right now.”

Two other California transplants he still calls teammates — Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins — are probably even happier with their new situations.

News that they’d been dealt to Utah was anything but a vacation spoiler.

“I really like it here,” Biedrins said. “I like the weather. … I really like the snow.”

For Biedrins and Jefferson, the change of scenery sure beats the career fog they were experiencing in the Bay Area.

Last season, the 7-foot Biedrins scored a grand total of 24 points and averaged only 9.3 minutes in 53 appearances for the on-the-rise Warriors. He hasn’t scored more than 5.0 points per game since his double-double season of 2008-09 (11.9 ppg, 11.2 rpg).

“The last couple of years were bad for me and I didn’t play a lot. It’s been great that I’m here,” Biedrins said. “It’s a new chapter in my life. I will do anything what it takes, just to regain myself and be who I was."

The recent drop-off has been even more considerable for Jefferson. The 6-7 small forward only averaged 3.1 points after tallying no less than a nine-points-per-game average in his previous 11 NBA seasons. The 33-year-old averaged a career-high 22.6 points for New Jersey in 2007-08.

On Monday, Jefferson joked that the rough season came about because he was forced to wear No. 44 instead of his preferred No. 24 (which he now sports in Paul Millsap’s absence).

More accurately, Jefferson pointed out that he entered training camp injured in 2012. When his health returned, up-and-comer Harrison Barnes had secured the lion’s share of minutes at their position, forcing the former prolific scorer to take on a mentoring role for playoff-bound Golden State.

“Last year,” Jefferson said, “was a tough year. … I received my first DNP (did not play) in 12 years.”

Rush suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the 2012-13 campaign. He’s still rehabbing after having ACL surgery in January and hasn’t been able to fully participate in training camp. It’s not clear when he’ll be able to go at full speed, but it’s likely he’ll split a chunk of minutes with Alec Burks at the shooting guard spot.

“He’s a great shooter and he’s a great competitor,” Jefferson said of Rush. “He’s a very good defender, but again it’s going to be awhile before he’s himself.”

It might take awhile for Biedrins and Jefferson to establish their roles on a team that is admittedly in a youth movement.

“They seem to relish the moment,” Corbin said of the traded Warriors. “They all come in with their positive attitude about working to earn a spot with this team and to be effective for us in whatever role that is for them here.”

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