On my way home from a meeting in Atlanta, I bumped into Brandon Rush in the security line. For the first time, I was thankful for how long it took to to get through the security process at Hartsfield. I walked up to him, and called his name, telling him I was from Indy. He went out of his way to wait up for me after that and was a lot more engaging and intelligent that I imagined he would be. For a while we thought we'd be taking the same flight to Indy, but he was on Airtran and I was on Delta. Regardless, I was able to talk with him for about 20 minutes, and it was surprising how much candor he had with me and the tons of questions I had for him.
For example, we talked a fair bit of time about his time with JOB. I told him how psyched I was to see him driving to the hoop at the beginning of last season. He told me that his doing that was because JOB specifically allowed him to have more scoring opportunities. When he messed up a couple of times into the year, he got relegated to "the corner". I found it fascinating that he saw himself naturally as someone who drove to the hoop, and from his perspective, was precluded for being able to do this. I've always thought he was passive. But he said that a players relationship was very hot and cold with JOB. In his case, JOB planned over the offseason to give Rush a bigger scoring role, and Rush felt if he was on his "good list", he could play as he traditionally liked to. If he screwed up, he wouldn't be allowed to have offensive opportunities and he was specifically told to sit out at the 3pt line.
He gave lots of other examples of this: "man, TJ got screwed by JOB. He should have easily started over AJ Price. AJ is a good guy and all, but he's no TJ on the court". "McRoberts, after the year he was having? Man." "The team never knew where they stood with JOB, it was hard to deal with."
I asked him if he thought that Vogel would be better in this regard. Surprisingly, he thought that things wouldn't change very much, given that he had all of his training from JOB. "He's a better communicator, the guys like him better." "I don't think the offensive system will change very much." I thought this was an odd thing to say, b/c the offense felt different once he took over last year.
I asked him about almost every player at some point, but here are the highlights:
He thinks that Paul George has a lot of skill, but he "doesn't have the killer instinct that you need to be an all-star". "Paul's more concerned with everyone liking him and getting along with people". I asked him if this could change, and he said probably. I then asked him if he thought that Granger was kicking his a** and he said "oh hell yeah, he's all over PG this summer. Granger kicked my *** last year big time. People think that Granger is all soft and holding back, but just wait and see… Granger is an amazing player, one of the best"
I asked him: "so what's going on with Stephenson… is he going to get his head right?" He said, after hesitating: "Naw, I really don't think so. He didn't listen to anyone, took offense to the players, and felt he was better than everyone else." I wondered whether he thought the summer in Indy is doing anything to get him right, and he said that he hadn't been in touch with him since the end of the season. "It's a shame because he has a lot of game"
"What do you think of George Hill?" "I've never talked to him before, but seems like he'll be a good player"
Collison: "man, I don't like playing with Collison." "He's too focused on getting his own shot, he's not a pass first point guard, and that's not fun to play with."
I got up the nerve to ask him about the evolving backcourt depth, and what he thinks that'll mean for his future in Indy. His response: "honestly, I'd like to be traded this offseason." When I poked at that a little more and asked him where, he said Chicago. "They need a 2 there, and their existing guys are getting older. I like the city, and I think I'd fit well with the team" "This is the offseason when I need to be traded in order for things to work out the best"
I asked him what he thought about the lockout negotiations. He said "I've been hearing good vibes over the past couple of days. It's very frustrating to deal with, as we all want to play. Did you know we're getting ready to start a league in the next week in Vegas? Me, Dahntay, and Paul George are going to play on a team with a couple of guys from New York" "All pro, it's going to be fun". He asked me what I thought of the lockout circumstance, and I told him that I could see points on both sides of the argument, but that they would be idiots if they couldn't figure out a way to keep up the momentum and not lose games. He agreed, reiterating that there's a lot of player movement that he believes will happen once things open up, and that he's been strategizing with his agent a lot.
All in all, I thought he was a nice guy: bright and engaged, easy to talk with. The fact that he was coming to Indy was nice, but it's clear that he sees the writing on the wall, and wants to move on now before his value is killed any more than it already is. I can't think of a good 2 way trade with the Bulls that would allow him to have his wish, but perhaps he could be part of a multi-team trade? Bulls certainly need a 2, but I'd be willing to bet they're shooting higher than Rush... more like Mayo or someone like that.
Hope this is interesting to folks.