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Utah Jazz will need help from trio of wounded ex-Warriors

Published October 7, 2013 6:26 pm

NBA • Veterans Rush, Jefferson and Biedrins all want to make an impact on court for Utah.
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Whenever that knee is OK, Brandon Rush, be ready.

Whatever you have left in the tank, Richard Jefferson, it's time to empty it.

Same goes for you, Andris Biedrins.

In the long term, the trio that came to Utah from Golden State in July's trade may only be remembered here for their contracts — large and expiring so as to give their new employers maximum flexibility in next season's free-agent market — or as couriers of two first-round picks that will come via the Bay Area at a later date.

But right now Ty Corbin needs some help at EnergySolutions Arena.

"We want them," the Jazz coach said before Monday's practice. "That's why we got them."

As Utah prepares to open its eight-game preseason slate Tuesday against, fittingly enough, Golden State, Corbin must have contributions both on and off the court from his ex-Warriors, three of the team's most veteran players, if the Jazz are going to enjoy any success this year.

The focus remains on Utah's youth movement, a possible starting lineup without a player over the age of 24. But after that? Well, Corbin still has to put players on the floor.

In their own way, each of the three newcomers is a reclamation project with something to prove.

Rush is still recovering from the ACL tear that ended his 2012 season after just two games. Jefferson, once a 20-point a night star in the NBA, averaged career lows in minutes and points.

Biedrins, meanwhile, told reporters he's still searching for his rhythm and confidence.

"It's true, I ain't gonna lie," said the veteran center, who will make $9 million this season after averaging a half-point per night last year. "It was kind of obvious at one point. This is a new start, and I think I can start over in building back that confidence, so I think it's a great opportunity."

Biedrins said he can help fellow big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, keeping them focused throughout the long season and helping them bounce back from tough losses.

But as he prepared to face the only other team for which he played, Biedrins said he also wants to show that he can be a factor on the floor.

"It's not only them," he said of the Warriors. "I want to show myself, still prove [to] myself that I've still got it."

Jefferson is in the same situation. Hampered by a preseason injury, the veteran forward watched last year as Harrison Barnes turned into a major contributor for the Warriors. At 33, Jefferson said he's comfortable as a mentor but hopes to "prove that I can contribute" on the floor.

"There was a time I was scoring 20 points a night," Jefferson said, "and that's not going to be my role, I understand that. Will it be playing 20 minutes? Will it be playing 5? I know I can contribute if I don't step on the court and I know I can contribute if I play 20-plus minutes. It's just a matter of whatever opportunity comes up you have to be ready and mentally strong to handle it."

Corbin and the Jazz will certainly rely heavily on the ex-Warriors' leadership.

Jefferson alone has played more games (852) than the Jazz's projected starting lineup combined (689).

"They have the experience," Corbin said. "They are the experienced guys. We're going to have to rely on them early to make sure they help this young group grow."

Even Rush, 28 years old and a career 41-percent shooter from 3, said he understands that will have to be a part of his role on such a young team.

"We old," he said of his ex-Warrior teammates. "We really old. I've never felt like this in my life. I feel like the old guy."

Then, as he stood in the corner of the gym, watching Jefferson fire up shots while Biedrins spoke to reporters, he added: "We can teach these guys some things."


Twitter: @aaronfalk —

Jazz vs. Warriors

P At EnergySolutions Arena

Tipoff • Tuesday, 7 p.m.

TV • ROOT Sports

About the Jazz • After narrowly missing out on the playoffs last season, Utah let a number of free agents, including big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, walk. … Now led by Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, the Jazz have the fourth-youngest roster in the league (average age 24.7). … Rookie point guard Trey Burke, the No. 9 pick in the 2013 draft, could be a starter from day one. … Most of the team's most veteran players came via a trade earlier this year with Golden State. … Forward Richard Jefferson has played more games in his career (852) than the Jazz's projected starting lineup combined (689).

About the Warriors • Acquired Andrew Iguodala thanks to the cap space cleared in a trade with Utah. … Former University of Utah center Andrew Bogut battled back from injury to play 32 games last season. … Guard Steph Curry averages better than 44 percent from 3 for his career. … Harrison Barnes averaged 9.2 points per game last year in his rookie campaign.






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