A Big Night for Corey Brewer
Is he playing himself out of the rotation in Minnesota?
by Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
Corey Brewer is a fan favorite in Minnesota. He plays hard, made huge strides in his game last season and has that smile that lights up a room. Coming into the 2010-11 NBA season, Brewer is also one of the few holdovers from last year’s squad that eventually ended up with a 15-67 record.
With a roster of wing players that now includes rookie Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Martell Webster and Wayne Ellington, Brewer is struggling to find a niche for himself on this team. Of course, it is only preseason and Coach Kurt Rambis is constantly throwing different lineups out there to see what players work best together on the court, but one thing has already become a constant: Brewer is playing himself out of the lineup.
“His defense has been most surprising,” said Rambis last week when asked about Johnson. “His individual defense and his team defense. He’s still learning a lot and he still makes mistakes in what he does mostly off-ball, but he covers a lot of ground and he’s got a tremendous wingspan. I like how wide his stance is and he anticipates things really well, whether he’s guarding the ball or helping off the ball. He has good, natural defensive instincts and I see him getting a lot better at that and having an impact on the game on that end of the floor as well.”
Doesn’t that seem similar to comments made about Brewer only a few years ago?
Rambis identified four of his starters rather quickly this preseason in Luke Ridnour at the point, Michael Beasley at the small forward, Kevin Love at the power forward and Darko Milicic at the center. The only question mark for his starting five is which player will play the two-guard spot and mesh best with the starting unit? Although Webster has the best stats of those in question, his scoring punch off the bench may be the best fit. Brewer started three of the first six preseason games, but has done very little, only averaging 4.2 points on 22% shooting and 14% from three-point land. He also is only on the court for 15.2 minutes. Production-wise, Wayne Ellington is also outplaying Brewer, seemingly moving him even further down the bench.
“They’re fighting for time, they’re fighting for positions, so I like that,” said Rambis. “I think competition is always good. That way, guys don’t sit back and rest and think that everything is going to be handed to them. They have to go out and earn it every day.”
Again, it is only preseason, but Brewer’s play has not been good to this point. With much more competition on the team than in previous years, he must find a way to define for himself–and, more importantly, his coach–what his role is on the Timberwolves. Tonight against Indiana, Rambis expects Brewer to start and with Webster sitting out, he should get more minutes than he has so far this preseason. Tonight is a big opportunity for Brewer and it should be interesting to see if he makes something out of it. One thing that Brewer does have in his favor is the fact that he has a year under his belt in Rambis’ system and with a lot of work to do, it may be the safe bet to play him early in the season.
“We have a lot to put in,” said Rambis. “As everybody gets more comfortable with it, as I see that they understand it and everybody has stopped thinking about it and just doing it, then I keep pushing the envelope and keep adding more and more. We have enough in. If we executed what we have in very well, we’d be fine. The execution determines how well you do in the offense.”
Clever as ever when asked if he has any ideas as to his rotation of wing players, Rambis nods and with a sly smile states, “I’m going to go with who plays well.”
At this point, that means there are four players ahead of Brewer in the rotation. Maybe five if you include another Timberwolves rookie Lazar Hayward.