Through eight seasons in the NBA, Ronnie Brewer became well known for his unique shooting technique, steady defensive instincts, and being one of the more upbeat and positive locker rooms guys in the league.
After starting 43 games (out of 66 appearances) for the Bulls during the 2011-12 season, Brewer then struggled to find a consistent role with teams like the Knicks, Thunder, and Rockets over the next two campaigns. His niche and respective abilities were clear. Teams simply weren't carving out the minutes necessary for him to find a rhythm and make an impact.
Brewer caught on briefly with the Bulls to close out the 2013-14 season. Such familiarity with the organization helped, as perhaps that's what it takes for teams to realize the swingman is a player dependable. Nevertheless, he hasn't really been heard from since. This led some to wonder; was he hurt? Does he still have what it takes to compete in the NBA?
It's now time to get to know Brewer all over again; this time, as the newest member of the defending D-League champion Santa Cruz Warriors.
The truth is, he did something quite admirable, as it relates to this generation of NBA players, last season.
"I sat out last year. I didn't get invited to training camp. People thought I was hurt or whatnot. I was working out and staying in shape, but I started taking online classes. I got to the point where I was two classes away before I could graduate since I [initially] left school for the NBA Draft," Brewer explained to RidiculousUpside.com. "I still have the desire to play basketball. I wanted to give this another shot. There's a lot of great talent in the D-League, and the Warriors are a great organization. I'm blessed."
Brewer asserted that he's obviously hoping for a call-up as the season progresses, but guiding his younger teammates and helping the team win games appeared to be higher on his priority list as he gets back into game shape. Ironically enough, such an unselfish mentality is something that will help the 30 year old endear himself to more NBA teams at the same time.
The veteran has always been well known, respected, and favored because of the type of impact he makes for a team off the court. This will aid him (and his teammates) more so in the D-League. He'll specifically be looked at as a mentor because of his experience.
"It's very important. It builds great team chemistry and camaraderie. I think that will create great success in the D-League. I can talk to these guys about my experience," Brewer said about embracing such a role at this level. "At 30 years old, I'm a little bit older than a lot of these guys. But they see me coming in early, making my free-throws, staying late, watching video with Coach [Casey Hill], and taking care of my body. That's the way you have to do it."
Brewer believed that who he is and where he's come from played into Santa Cruz's desire to draft him.
"I think so. The coaches have told me to be myself. They figured I was going to come in and do the right thing. I think guys respect it. That's why our practices have been so intense and detailed," he said. "They know I'm trying to improve. Hopefully that sets the tone and they think, 'who am I not to go out and do the same thing?' That's why I think we're going to be a really good team."
Discussing how he'll aim to make his mark yet again, the defensive specialist gave examples of ways he can be versatile, including on offense as well.
"Do things I've done my whole career. I need to be a solid player, defending different positions; the two, three, and four. I can rebound, push the ball, and get open shots. If I can set a screen, come up off a screen and pop, attack the basket, then hit a shot and/or make my free throws, people around the league will notice," Brewer elaborated. "They know what I can do, and I think I can slowly but surely work my way into the player that I was."
Some may think going through the motions of minor league training camp would be a piece of cake for a veteran like Brewer. That said, he's been, instead, pleasantly surprised at the atmosphere right now in Santa Cruz.
"It's been pretty intense," he said about camp. "When you're in the NBA, you might be around veterans who aren't going as hard because they've been there before. These are all guys who are hungry to get to that next level. They're hungry to improve. Guys are going really hard. I've enjoyed every minute of it."
Heading to the D-League is sometimes a discouraging experience for NBA vets hungry for a second shot. But there's a good chance Brewer's maturity will aid him. He's the kind of vet that understands what this chance means, and hopefully, will capitalize on it accordingly.