The Denver Nuggets’ Championship Voice?
Over the course of his brief five-year NBA career, Denver Nuggets’ sixth man Corey Brewer has seen his fair share of both ends of the professional spectrum. After winning two national championships at the University of Florida, and winning the Most Valuable Player award in the 2007 Final Four, Brewer went to the Minnesota Timberwolves with the seventh overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.
In roughly three-and-a-half lottery bound seasons for the T-Wolves, Brewer never lived up to those lofty expectations and was subsequently traded to the New York Knicks as part of the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony deal in 2011.
That’s when things started to look up for Brewer.
The Knicks cut Brewer shorty thereafter and, after clearing waivers in early March of 2011, Brewer signed with the Dallas Mavericks with hopes of competing in his first postseason action. Those hopes came to fruition and then some as the 26-year-old Brewer played a key role for the Mavericks during their championship run in the 2011 playoffs, particularly in the Western Conference Semifinals. Brewer scored five points and notched a steal, rebound and assist in eight minutes early in the third quarter as the Mavericks erased a 16-point deficit to take Game One against the Los Angeles Lakers. Dallas went on to upset the Lakers in a four-game sweep en route to the first championship franchise history.
In speaking with Brewer, that championship experience with those veteran-laden Mavs paid dividends in the leaps and bounds he’s grown since that point in his career.
“It was the best,” Brewer told HOOPSWORLD. “Just being around the guys, they show you how to be a true professional. Especially Jet [Jason Terry], he was the ultimate professional. He could come in, off the bench and do his job and [along with guys like] Brian Cardinal, he didn’t play at all besides the championship game and he came in and hit some big threes so you always have to be ready.”
Now in Denver with the Nuggets, Brewer has carved out a niche as being the top bench producer on one of the deepest teams in basketball. Even though there are other proven veterans on the Nuggets’ squad, Brewer believes his journey to an NBA title with Dallas gives him a credible voice in the locker room.
“I feel they listen,” Brewer said candidly, “because people want to win. I won a championship and people listen.”
Excelling in Denver head coach George Karl’s more up-tempo system, Brewer seems to have found a key role on a postseason contender after years of failing to find his way in the NBA.
“Yeah, I never got the chance,” Brewer said. “I love playing up-tempo. It’s like when I was in college, we played up-tempo but once I got into the league it was slow down, throw into the post system and I don’t know how to play like that. I took some adjusting and now I’m back in the up-tempo system and it’s great.”
A key in Brewer’s evolution has been the increased efficiency on his sometimes awkward-looking perimeter jumper. After beginning his career without much touch from the outside, Brewer has integrated a consistent three-point shot to go along with his slashing style to help fill out his offensive repertoire.
“That’s an amazing jump shot that’s all I can say,” Coach Karl said jokingly. “Thank God it goes in, because it doesn’t look good. It looks like a can opener a little bit. [Brewer] does one or two things really well, he runs the break well and he can finish on smaller people. He’s getting a little bit of a knack for getting fouled, which I think is something shooting 75 percent would be really good.
“I think he adds a little something to us,” Karl continued. “He’s got a little jump shot off the dribble, even though it’s not my favorite shot in basketball, it goes in probably above average. He’s got that energy where even if he makes a mistake you go, ‘That’s ok, he’s trying hard.’ He and Kenneth [Faried] are those kind of guys with so much energy, you have trouble being mad at them.”
Because of the coaching turnover during his first few seasons with Minnesota (the T-Wolves have had five different coaches overall since 2005), Brewer constantly had to learn different offensive systems. Under Karl over the past two seasons, Brewer says the continuity that he enjoys in Denver has been crucial to his development.
“It’s actually the first time I’ve played in one system back-to-back years in my whole career,” Brewer said. “I was in the same place a few years, but I still played for four or five different coaches. Just being around in a system and knowing when I’m going to get my shots and how I’m going to get my shots makes the game a lot easier. I just try to come in and bring some energy.”
After coming into the season with lofty expectations, Denver started the season 0-3 and stumbled to a below .500 record at 10-11 on Dec. 9. Since then, the Nuggets have rebounded and put together a nice run with players starting to get on the same page. With six victories over their last nine contests, including tough wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers, the Nuggets find themselves at 17-15, which is good for seventh in the Western Conference.
“I think we can compete in the West,” Brewer said. “We haven’t even played at home yet. We’ve played like eight or nine home games I think. Once we get home, I feel like we can be a good team.”
To Brewer’s point, the Nuggets have played a whopping 22 games away from home this season – no other NBA team has played more than 19 away from home – compared to just 10 contests at the Pepsi Center in Denver. At home, this squad has made the most of those few and far between homecomings to the tune of the fewest home losses in the NBA this year and a 9-1 record.
Coach Karl continues to try to go against the grain with these Nuggets, relying on a deep and talented roster opposed to a few stars carrying all the weight in Denver. A large part of that equation is Brewer and the rest of the starting-caliber bench in the Mile High city.
We’ve already begun to see a change in this Denver squad over the past couple of weeks and there’s little doubt this team possesses enough talent to compete with some of the hard hitters in the West.