Can Brewer Earn Minutes in Oklahoma City?
When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded guard Eric Maynor last week, it came as no particular surprise. The real surprise came hours later when it was announced that the Thunder acquired New York Knicks’ wing Ronnie Brewer in exchange for its 2014 second-round draft pick. It wasn’t quite the big name expected, but then again, the 2013 trade deadline produced rather ho-hum results in general.
Just before Brewer took the court for the first time in a Thunder uniform, HOOPSWORLD got an opportunity to speak with OKC’s newest player. He was candid in expressing what he was feeling and what he was most looking forward to in his new environment.
“I guess just being able to fit in,” Brewer said. “I just want to be able to step in when my name is called and get in there and play as hard as I possibly can in every possession and possibly help this team out.
“Like I’ve been telling everybody else, this team, this organization has set their foundation (with) great young players like KD (Kevin Durant) and Russ (Westbrook),” Brewer added.
Then he eyed each locker room nameplate, one at a time down the line, as he continued reciting the names of his teammates.
“And being surrounded by Thabo (Sefolosha), Serge (Ibaka), Nick (Collison), Perk (Kendrick Perkins). You know, you could name everybody on this team who makes this team great,” Brewer said, not even trying to contain his awe.
“Love him. Hate playing against him, but glad he’s on our team now,” Durant said after the trade for Brewer was announced. “Tremendous defender, great cutter, offensive rebounder. (He does) all the small intangible things you need.”
Brewer has only participated in a handful of Thunder practices; we were curious how he was fitting in that forum. Again, he was very forthcoming in his description.
“Practices are going really well,” Brewer said. “It’s an everyday battle. I’m trying to learn all their sets, all their play calls in a short period of time. So at times, I get a little confused about the different situations. But like coach (Scott Brooks) told me, you can make up for it by your intensity and your level of play. That’s one thing I can say that I’m going to stay consistent with, and that’s work hard every possession.”
Brewer’s name is synonymous defensive effort which seemingly makes him a solid fit for this team. Over the past three seasons, the Thunder has increased its Defensive Rating (determined by points allowed per 100 possessions) from a league-ranked15th in 2010-11 to 11th in 2011-12 to a present eighth-place ranking so far this season. It’s going the right direction, but the defensive intensity appears to be slipping some lately.
“(Thunder general manager) Sam (Presti) and I, we’ve always talked (about) building a team through a defensive mindset,” said Brooks. “We’re always looking for guys that are going to add that to our team, defensively, and (Brewer) definitely does. He’s 6’7, he has a strong body, and he’s another high-character guy that plays for his team.”
“I think that’s why we’ve improved at such a rapid pace because of our defending guys that have really come to play defense every night,” continued Brooks. “It gives us a chance to win.”
The question, of course, is how many minutes can Brewer expect to play for Oklahoma City?
“I still have to understand how he’s going to fit in,” answered Brooks. “It’s going to be a feel thing. I want to make sure that we put him in a good position and he’s comfortable and I’m comfortable and the team’s comfortable with what he brings to the team. All that being said, there’s not a lot of minutes to be had.”
Brewer understands the demands of this league and the limited rotations available. He was the 14th overall pick by the Utah Jazz in 2006. After several years there, he had stints with the Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls and Knicks. He has career averages of 8.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals in 24.2 minutes. He has appeared in a total of 464 NBA games, starting in 301 of them.
“Brewer just creates excitement because he brings nothing but team chemistry, team spirit to the team,” said Brooks. “He’s been in programs that believe and built their organizations on that. He’s just another winning player.”
“I was fortunate and lucky enough to get moved from a good team to a great team, so I was very fortunate and happy to hear the news that I was going to Oklahoma City, but anytime you get traded, it’s always a tough situation,” Brewer said. “All the players welcomed me like I’ve been on the team since day one, so I’m very excited to be a member of this team. Very anxious and excited to join this team because being around Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and see how hard they prepare and work, only wants you to elevate your work ethic and your game to try to match them and try not to disappoint them.”
“This is one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, so I don’t need to come in and have to score a lot of points,” Brewer explained. “Basically in talking with coach Scott Brooks, he wants me to come out there and bring the energy, bring hustle plays, defend at a high level, make the easy plays and if I can do that, I’ve done my job.”
“We’re happy to have him,” Durant said. “I think he’s close to home as well. You know when a guy’s closer to home, the energy level is up a little bit, so I’m excited he’s here for us.”
Brewer, a Fayetteville, Arkansas native, and his family are no strangers to the game. His dad, Ron Brewer, played in the NBA for eight years for six different teams, from 1978-79 to 1985-86. Brewer said he and his dad quit playing against each other long ago since their competitiveness was creating issues.
“Fayetteville, Arkansas is not that far from here,” Brewer said. “I have an uncle who coaches local high school here at Southeast High School. It’s a short flight or a short drive for my mom and dad and my friends and family to come and support the Thunder.”
The Thunder organization had to be pleased with Brewer’s showing in his first game: 5.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.0 assists, 2-of-4 in field goal shooting and 1-of-2 in three-pointers in 12.0 minutes. He’s off to a pretty good start though these minutes came during the fourth quarter in a game against the New Orleans Hornets in which the Thunder’s victory was already assured.
Brooks summed it up succinctly: “All you want is options, and we have good options.”