SALT LAKE CITY — On Wednesday, Brandon Rush helped serve mashed potatoes as the Utah Jazz fed about 4,000 meals to Utahns in need.
On Thursday, the shooting guard practiced at full speed for the second day in a row.
On Friday night, the 28-year-old hopes to return to the basketball court for his second comeback this season.
“What I want to get done first,” Rush said, “is being able to wake up and not think about the game situation, not being nervous and stuff like that.”
On Nov. 2, 2012, Rush tore an ACL during the Warriors’ second game. His medical situation took a toll on more than just his left knee, and it ended up being more than simply a season-ending injury.
Rush, who had surgery on his right knee in college, is still trying to recover almost 13 months later, both physically and mentally.
“The first time I did it when I was in college, it took me 5 1/2 months to get back. I wasn’t out of the game that long,” Rush explained. “This time, I had that route where I couldn’t have surgery for two months. It took a toll on the muscles in my quad.
“This has just been complicated,” he added. “I have been out a whole complete year. That takes anybody’s confidence away.”
The six-year pro made his Jazz debut in Brooklyn three weeks ago after being traded to Utah from Golden State this offseason. He played for 10 minutes, didn’t take a shot, and hasn’t returned to action since that awkward two-turnover performance against the Nets.
Rush’s knee felt fine.
Everything else felt off.
Rush and Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin decided the sharpshooter needed more practice before attempting to play again.
“I didn’t go to training camp. I hardly know any plays. It’s my first time playing five-on-five in a year,” Rush said during the Jazz’s four-game Eastern trip earlier this month. “I think it will be better for me just to get some more practice time before going out on the court again.”
Though details of his peculiar situation were vague, Rush said he felt “great about it” and has continued to gradually increase what he’s done in practice. Rush and former Golden State teammate Andris Biedrins, out with a sprained ankle, both participated in a full-speed practice for the first time in weeks on Wednesday.
“They did good,” Corbin said. “They both got a little winded after going for a while, but I thought they moved very well.”
Rush and Biedrins will likely both be available for action in this Friday-Saturday home-and-away doubleheader against the Phoenix Suns.
“I feel real confident on that knee. I think I’m taking a step forward,” Rush said before Thursday’s practice. “I’m still going to practice full (Thursday) and see how I feel (Friday). If I feel pretty good, I’ll probably end up playing (Friday). I think I’m pretty much ready to go.”
Rush’s comeback hasn’t been easy or fun, but he’s improved from where he was when he attempted to return last time.
“Definitely feel a lot better,” Rush said. “I think the route I took by taking those games off and getting some extra work in and coming in here and practicing with the guys has definitely paid off.”
Corbin is looking forward to the contributions Rush can make on the court as a 3-point threat and a good perimeter defender.
“I hope,” the coach said earlier this week, “this is the top of the hill so we can get him on the floor.”
Wednesday and Thursday might’ve been the perfect days for Rush to have prior to playing again. Not only did he get to practice, but he also had the opportunity to fill his heart with gratitude while serving homeless and underprivileged Utahns in the Jazz’s annual “We Care - We Share” Thanksgiving dinner.
A day before his girlfriend made him his own holiday meal, the two had a great time serving mashed potatoes and veggies in the food line.
“There was a lot of food going around. It’s definitely a great feeling,” Rush said. “My girlfriend came with me. She loves doing stuff like that. We definitely had a great time feeding the homeless.”
The thought Rush took away from that charitable experience?
“You’re blessed for every day you get here,” he said, “because people out there are really struggling.”
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