Brandon Rush, already at 31 a bit older than the Timberwolves' young core, was joking about coach Tom Thibodeau's long training camp practices Thursday. He knew what he was getting into when he signed here last summer, he said. His agent had warned him. But still….
"It's been long, but it's been good,'' he said. "Fun, competitive. I'll be OK.''
You can bet on it.
Thibodeau said after Thursday's practice that a lot of thought is put into the type of player he wants to bring in via free agency. And where that player comes from.
In Rush, a 6-6 sharpshooter who can play anything from shooting guard to power forward (in a small lineup), Thibodeau added a tough guy from a championship team; Rush spent the past two seasons with Golden State.
Rush's toughness and winning background both figure to help.
Rush is a survivor. He broke his left elbow when he was young. He has suffered — and overcome — two torn ACLs, one in each knee. While at the University of Kansas, he tore the ACL in his right knee in what turned out to be an illegal workout for the New York Knicks.
He returned to Kansas and starred for a Jayhawks team that won the NCAA title in 2008 and was a first-round pick in the NBA. After three years in Indiana he went to Golden State in 2011.
But, in 2012, in the second game of the season, he tore his other ACL.
The road back was a little more difficult this time. Traded to Utah, he played in 38 games in the 2013-14 season. Re-signed by Golden State, he played in 38 games the year the Warriors won the title in the spring of 2015.
It wasn't until last season, when his playing time took a jump while Harrison Barnes was hurt, that Rush felt he was back.
"I was playing well in training camp," he said. "In practices. But I just couldn't get it to transfer over into games. But once I got an opportunity to go out and get some real minutes, things started coming back. My confidence came back. It just went from there.''
Rush played in 72 games, starting 25. And while his numbers were modest — averages of 4.2 points and 2.5 rebounds — he was effective in the time he played, averaging 10.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per 36 minutes played. He also shot 41.4 percent on three-pointers.
He said he could have returned to the Warriors but didn't think there'd be many minutes to be had with a guy named Kevin Durant there. He came to Minnesota for more opportunity and because he was intrigued with the talent.
"It took a couple days to make the decision on where to go,'' he said. "I see this team as a great opportunity.''
Thibodeau sees a guy who can stretch defenses and make threes — something the team needs more of.
"He does the right things in how he prepares, his concentration, all those things help," Thibodeau said.
It appears Thibodeau's staff will soon be complete.
Ed Pinckney has been serving as a guest coach at the Wolves' training camp this week, and is expected to become a permanent member of the staff soon.
Pinckney was an assistant with the Chicago Bulls during Thibodeau's entire run there, before serving as an assistant with the Denver Nuggets last season.
This is Pinckney's second stint in Minnesota — he was here as an assistant from 2007 until 2010 under head coaches Randy Wittman, Kevin McHale and Kurt Rambis.