In 2010-11, Ronnie Brewer was a critical piece of the Chicago Bulls' so-called "Bench Mob" that helped push the team to a conference finals berth. A couple lost seasons later, the Bulls will hope Brewer can again provide a missing ingredient.
Chicago and Brewer came to terms on a contract for the remainder of the 2013-14 NBA season on Monday, the terms of which have not been disclosed. Considering its tenuous straddling of the luxury-tax line, it's unlikely Brewer will receive anything larger than the prorated veteran's minimum. More interesting is whether the deal allots for an option for next season.
Brewer, 29, was released by the Houston Rockets in February. He averaged only 0.3 points on 20 percent shooting in 23 games with the Rockets after signing in Houston last offseason. A swing guard-forward known mostly for his defense, Brewer was coming off a struggle-filled 2012-13 campaign where he failed to stick in the rotations for both the Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks.
While it's unclear what (if any) role he'll ultimately have in Chicago, there may be no more conducive fit for his style. Coach Tom Thibodeau coaxed some of the best ball of Brewer's career out of him during his two-year stint with the Bulls.
First a member of the "Bench Mob" in 2010-11, Brewer started 43 games the following season. Though the Bulls declined his option and allowed him to walk in free agency, Brewer's on-off splits were always solid, as was his relationship with teammates.
“That’s my guy,” forward Taj Gibson told Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune. “He’s a big guard, can defend multiple positions. He’s athletic and he’s a leader. He has been in the league a long time and has been through a lot with us.”
News of Brewer's potential arrival had been circulating for days. He was at the Berto Center working out for the team on Thursday, and former Bulls guard Mike James has also been a rumored potential addition, per Greenstein. Because the Rockets waived Brewer before the NBA's cut-off deadline, he will be able to play in the postseason.
Brewer's signing puts the short-staffed Bulls at 13 players. With injuries to Derrick Rose and the departure of Luol Deng via trade, Thibodeau has stripped his rotation down to the bare bones and transmogrified into a Joakim Noah-led defensive monolith.
The Bulls are currently tied with the Toronto Raptors for third place in the East. They've allowed an NBA-best 97.1 points per 100 possessions since Jan. 1, per NBA.com. Noah, at times facilitating the entirety of the Bulls' attack on both ends of the floor, is a favorite for the first-team All-NBA center spot.
It's unlikely Brewer has much effect on Chicago's trajectory. He'll slot in the rotation behind starters Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler, as well as rookie Tony Snell. Jimmer Fredette's complete ineffectiveness since signing in Chicago will probably make it an interesting call whether Thibodeau goes with Fredette or Brewer first off the rotation, though neither will get much playing time barring injury in the playoffs.
More than anything, this is a "just in case" signing. If Butler or Dunleavy goes down, Thibodeau needs to have someone in place who can execute the defensive system. Fredette hasn't proven himself capable yet, and the Bulls' entire system breaks down with one weak link. For all his offensive struggles throughout his career, Brewer is still a fine lockdown defender on the perimeter.
It'll be a surprise if Brewer has much impact, but it's a signing that certainly won't hurt anything.
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