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He takes long route to repair reputation

February 25, 2007|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

The telephone connection is weak and, besides, Kareem Rush has been battling flu, so he doesn't sound great.

Playing professional basketball in Lithuania has been difficult. The fans are enthusiastic, but the Lietuvos Rytas team is far from the NBA, where Rush insists he should be.

"This is a temporary stay," he said. "I'll be back."

The middle brother in the Rush family survived the Myron Piggie scandal with a measure of stoicism, saying that lots of families have troubles, but "ours were publicized."

He spent three good seasons at Missouri and reached the pros, playing for the Lakers, living in Marina del Rey. He averaged 6.4 points in 243 games.

For him, the real trouble didn't start until last year. After a trade, Rush was in his second season with the Charlotte Bobcats when the team abruptly waived him.

In a terse statement, Coach Bernie Bickerstaff said: "The Bobcats are about two things -- hard work and maximum effort. With that in mind, we think it is best to go in a different direction with Kareem."

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson quickly came to Rush's defense, but the player believes his reputation was damaged.

"I didn't want to wait around for an NBA team to give me a call," he said. "I told my agent I just wanted to play."

That meant Lithuania, where Rush has been a top scorer and helped keep his team atop the league standings.

His desire to return is evident, even over the static of a long-distance line.

"Another couple of months," he said. "I just need to get rid of the rumors that have been going around about me."

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