The guys that are in uniform have done a great job for us. We’re shorthanded. We don’t have a lot of options in a lot of what we’re doing because of the guys that we have out. The guys are doing a good job, the ones that are in uniform. —Tyrone Corbin, Utah Jazz head coach
BROOKLYN — The Utah Jazz have had a rough start to the 2013-14 season, and not just because they’ve lost all three games so far.
Coach Tyrone Corbin hasn’t had anything close to a full roster. Through three games, only 10 of the team’s 15 players have been able to play.
That will change tonight when Brandon Rush returns to the court. The shooting guard hasn't played since tearing the ACL in his left knee in the second game of the 2012-13 season just over a year ago.
"I’m really excited," Rush said ahead of the Jazz's 5:30 p.m. MDT tipoff against the Brooklyn Nets.
Rush will see action in the first half, Corbin said. Rush pointed out that he'll be limited to five-minute playing stretches, hopefully to be increased by the game.
"I’m happy to just get out there just to get some running up and down against some real opponents," Rush said. "(I'll) just try to build some confidence back in my knee. Hopefully, it goes good."
The addition is more than welcome by Corbin.
“It’s difficult. We see where we’re making progress and where we miss the guys we have out,” Corbin admitted. “The guys that are in uniform have done a great job for us. We’re shorthanded. We don’t have a lot of options in a lot of what we’re doing because of the guys that we have out. The guys are doing a good job, the ones that are in uniform.”
Rush, acquired in the offseason trade with Golden State, recently began fully participating in practice. After Tuesday's shootaround, he posted on Twitter, "Might see some action n the game tonight.”
Rush hasn’t played in more than a year, having injured his knee in the second game with the Warriors last Nov. 2. He had surgery in January, and it’s been a slow recovery progress since then.
In 2007, Rush suffered the same ACL injury to his right knee while in college.
"I kind of look back at that because I've already been through it before and I knew what it’d take to come back from an injury like this. It’s hard work," Rush said. "I put in the hard work and now it’s just time for me to get back out on the court."
Rush is expected to become a valuable member of the Jazz bench, providing an outside scoring threat and perimeter defense.
So, how is that shot?
"It’s feeling good. I don’t think you can lose the touch," Rush said. "That’s all I’ve been doing for the last nine, 10 months — working on shooting and dribbling."
Small forward Marvin Williams has also been able to do more in practice and continues to rehab from his offseason Achilles tendon surgery.
“Plus, we get Trey (Burke) back soon,” Corbin added. “We’ll be OK.”
Burke is with the team in Brooklyn and has been a faithful observer while rehabbing from the surgery he had three weeks ago to repair his fractured right index finger. He’ll be re-evaluated Nov. 11 after the team returns from this four-game Eastern trip.
Utah is also without big man Andris Biedrins (ankle) and forward Jeremy Evans (rotator cuff). Evans, who also accompanied the team, has progressed and doesn’t have as much swelling in his injured shoulder.
“He’s getting better every day,” Corbin said. “It’s still not where he has free movement without any pain.”
-- Relying on just 10 guys, especially some who likely won’t be in the regular rotation as the season progresses, has been tough for the Jazz. It forces main players like Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors to play longer stretches, which is not ideal at end of games when exhaustion can lead to errors.
“Finishing the fourth quarter has been difficult for us,” Corbin said.
Not having a full bench can really hurt when the team plays back-to-backs and a lot, like the four-games-in-five-nights situation it’s in this week. It doesn’t get much better anytime soon. Utah has 15 more games remaining in November, with five sets of games on consecutive nights.
“It’s just a difficult stretch for us,” Corbin said, “especially being with the short number of bodies in uniform.”
-- The Jazz will again go with the lineup that started so well Saturday night, jumping out to a 19-point lead on the Rockets before a second-half stumble led to a 104-93 loss to the Rockets.
The Jazz are hoping to avoid starting 0-4, which hasn’t happened since the franchise relocated from New Orleans to Utah in 1979.
“You want to try to win. You want to compete. You don’t want to concede,” Corbin said. “Losing is not fun. You don’t want the guys to have a hopeless feel.”
While trying to stay positive, Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward said the team is taking some solace in knowing that two wins were by only three points apiece and that Utah was in it against Houston until unraveling in the final few minutes.
“The way we lost was frustrating, for sure, because we were in all three games,” Hayward said. “So, that’s at least a good sign that we gave yourselves a chance. We haven’t gotten over the edge. It’ll happen. We’re not worried.”
Veteran point guard Jamaal Tinsley isn’t expressing much concern about the losing ways, either.
“Everybody knows our record is 0-3. We could have easily been 3-0. We’ve just got to learn from our mistakes and move on in a right way and not get no setbacks,” Tinsley said. “I think we were doing a good job on the defensive end, but we can always get better.
“We’ve just got to clean some stuff up on the offensive end. Other than that, it’s a young team. They’re competing, playing hard and giving themselves a chance to win games.”
-- This will be the Jazz’s first look at the revamped Nets, who gave Deron Williams an old Utah teammate, Andrei Kirilenko, this offseason along with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Tonight will be new Nets coach Jason Kidd’s debut in Brooklyn.
Hayward looks forward to going against his old Jazz teammates.
“It’s been a couple of years,” he said. “It’s always fun when you’re going against guys had had on the same team.”
-- About two weeks after taking over for Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, Corbin had to bid farewell to his best player when the Jazz traded away Williams to the Nets. Corbin laughed when jokingly asked what it was like to coach D-Will for that short stint.
“I loved it for 10 days,” he quipped.
Corbin got to know Williams well as Sloan’s assistant before being promoted in the wake of the February 2011 resignation. Williams was with the Jazz for 5-1/2 seasons before the trade.
“The fortunate thing is we had an opportunity as assistant coaches to have a relationship with him for a number of years before he left,” Corbin said. “He was a good player. He’s a good guy to be around. We really enjoyed what he did for this organization while he was here.”