When it comes to the 2008-09 Philadelphia 76ers, one of the biggest mysteries for us here at Philadunkia is NOT the head coaching change or the stubborn commitment to play Andre Iguodala at the 2-spot or the enigma that is Samuel Dalembert.
No for us one of the biggest eyebrow raisers from the Sixers last season is the Kareem Rush saga. And by “saga” what we bluntly mean to say is, “What the hell happened with Kareem Rush last season?”
Well, Philadunkia contributor James Kaikis caught up with Rush at the NBA Summer League out in Las Vegas and here’s what Rush had to say on the topic.
But first a little back-story…
If you recall, when the Sixers and Ed Stefanski signed Rush in the summer of 2008, a great deal of fanfare surrounded the event and Stefanski seemed ecstatic about picking Rush up. “As we continue to build our team, we’re fortunate that we were able to sign a player as talented as Kareem Rush.” Stefanski said back in July of 2008.
“His abilities on both ends of the floor and his range as a three-point shooter will be assets to us,” Stefanski also noted. Stefanski had a right to be excited and truth be told we were just as pumped by the signing, maybe more.
Now don’t get us wrong, we knew that Rush wasn’t the missing piece to a Sixers title run, but at the time we absoluetly thought he was a significant upgrade for the Sixers bench. Additionally we felt his 3-point shooting would open up the floor for Brand and others to operate.
Both Ed and Philadunkia also had good statistical reasons to be excited about the Rush signing as well.
Rush, then 27, spent the previous season with the Indiana Pacers, averaging 8.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 21.2 minutes in 71 games, including 15 starts. But the key number for Philadunkia’s home team was that Rush shot a more then respectable (and career high by the way) 38.9 per cent (102-262) from beyond the arc.
He recorded at least two made three-pointers in 33 games, including three or more 13 times. Just as a point of reference, back in 2007-08, Andre Iguodala led the Sixers in games with multiple three-pointers made with 30.
So, in theory and on paper, Rush looked like a player who could really, really help the 2008-09 Sixers.
The season started and Rush’ minutes were limited from the jump, but we figured it was a matter of getting used to Mo Cheeks’ system and adjusting to a new setting. We believed by late November Rush would be seeing major minutes off the Philly bench. Boy, were we wrong.
Rush appeared in eleven games in November 2008 and that would be his most active month in a Sixers uniform.
We had hoped the coaching change in mid-December would have a positive effect on Rush’s minutes, but the eleven appearances by Rush fell to five games in December.
When the games played stat dropped to two in January of ’09 we knew there was no hope for Rush. Rush made one appearance in February, two in March and two in April for the Sixers. If you are keeping score at home, the man played in 25 games TOTAL in 2008-09, logging an average of eight minutes per contest.
More importantly on a team in desperate need of a tree-point threat, Rush attempted a career low 33 treys (minimum of 25 games played). Just as a reminder, Rush was coming off a career season in which he had 33 games where he drilled at least two 3 balls. But for the Sixers he only got to throw up 33 ALL YEAR.
That’s a statistical swing of biblical proportions and something had to have gone wrong.
In early 2009, there were rumors that Rush was dogging it in practice, something he denied vehemently to me in Vegas saying that he did, “all he could in practices…”
So we’ll dismiss those rumors and I flat out asked Rush if he had any idea what happened during 2008-09 in Philadelphia that turned the season into a nightmare for him?
“I had no idea (what went wrong). I thought the entire year throughout practice I thought I showed that I could add a three point shot to the team which is what they were lacking — They were last in the league last year (according to 2007-08 three point shooting stats).”
Asked if he felt there was a certain turning point or any one incident on-the-court last season here in Philly that triggered his minutes to spiral downward into the limited to almost non-existent category, Rush answered “No” and continued by saying, “it became a situation where I just didn’t have a chance to show what I could do and its unfortunate because I thought I could really help that team.”
Okay so according to Rush it has nothing to do with his on-the-court efforts and the NBA people we talked to could not confirm for us that Rush’s effort was lacking in practice or games.
Maybe Rush was a cancer in the locker room or a bad teammate or had an attitude problem. Hey, it’s possible. Look what we learned after the Magic eliminated the 76ers from the NBA Playoffs – apparently there was chaos and in-fighting within the Sixers locker room throughout last season, the public just did not hear anything about it.
We couldn’t find anyone who had such stories to tell about Rush during the 2008-09 season, so we asked Rush if something he may have done off-the-court caused his tick to go down the drain.
Rush answered, “No not at all. I just think it was something upstairs (in the Sixers front office) and Coach Leo was just comfortable with those guys that were playing but I think given a shot I would have been good for the team.”
I continued to press Rush further on the whole topic of his lone season in Philadelphia in hopes of getting to the bottom of the situation. But I found that he really had no answers for me. He seemed to be just as bewildered by string of events that happened down at the Wachovia Center last year as we are here at Philadunkia.
So it looks as though the Kareem Rush saga will go down as one of the great unsolved mysteries in history along with Who shot JFK? Why did Portland select Sam Bowie instead of MJ? and Tastes Great or Less Filling?
Philadunkia Notes :
- When I asked Rush what a veteran like him was doing playing for the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Summer League playing, he responded, “I’m just out here trying to get some reps, showcasing myself a little bit. I’ve been working hard and interested in them for a long time. Hopefully they will be interested in me and we can see if something can happen.”
- FYI…Rush appeared in two games for the Nuggs during the NBA SL, averaging 18.5 mins. per and putting up 3 ppg. He did not attempt a single 3-ball in those two games with Denver.