It was supposed to be a special night at Oracle Arena. The brand-spanking new lineup that management spent the offseason assembling was making their debut in front of an excited and hopeful home crowd in Oakland. After the extravagant player introductions and the glow sticks had been cracked, basketball got underway and the crowd was buzzing.
Then with 4:10 left in the first quarter, the energy was sucked out of the building seemingly in an instant.
Brandon Rush drove toward the basket and went up for what looked to be a thunderous dunk but instead, came down in one of the most awkward and gruesome ways a player can land. He immediately came up limping and screamed almost knowing immediately that whatever went wrong in his knee wasn’t going to be good.
After he was helped off the court and into the locker room, the Warriors gathered into a huddle in what was likely a prayer for their fallen teammate (another sign that it was probably a very severe injury).
Asked about the injury after the game, point guard Jarrett Jack shook his head in disbelief before answering. “It had me in a daze for a little while,” said a very emotional Jack. “I’ve known Brandon probably longer than anybody in here. I knew him as a rookie. We both went to Indiana the same year – lived next door to each other, literally. He’s one of my really, really good friends. To watch that happen, it took the air out of me for a little bit.”
The Warriors still had about 40 minutes of basketball to play, but after losing such an important piece of their team and friend to injury, it clearly took its toll on them. “I think that took a little bit out of us just because this is a tight knit group and we know how big of a year this is for him” said coach Mark Jackson. “Just an unfortunate, unfortunate break.”
Jack talked about what it was like in the moments after Rush went down. “I know personally for me, my heart was pounding,” he said. “He’s a really great kid, fun-loving kid. Nobody deserves to get hurt but if there was a person who didn’t deserve it, it was him.”
The Warriors went on to make a spirited comeback behind Stephen Curry’s hot shooting but ultimately fell to the Grizzlies. A loss on opening night will be forgotten quickly knowing there are 80 more games to be played. The loss of Rush on the other hand, will be felt for what looks to be the entire season.
Jack mentioned that he was able to see Rush after the injury. “I talked to him, but what do you really say to somebody in that situation? Obviously he couldn’t play so we know he’s going to miss a substantial amount of time” he started. “If it were to happen to me, there’s really nothing you can say that’s just going to make me smile at that point. That’s just like telling somebody who just got laid off and they got three kids at home and the 1st is in three days; you gotta keep the lights on, some food – what can you really say to that person?”
The narrative for the Warriors this season has been how good they could be if they remained healthy. Two games in and they’re already down one man. The difference between this year’s team and years past is the depth, especially at the wing position. That depth will now be put to the test a lot earlier than they had anticipated. The question now is: out of Barnes, Jefferson and Green, who will step up and fill the void left by Rush? Obviously none of these three can provide the combination of defense, athleticism and long-range shooting that Rush brought to the table which leaves Mark Jackson the unenviable task of once again piecing things together without all of his best tools.
An MRI is scheduled tomorrow for Rush to determine the extent of the damage.