Knicks' Brewer has fond memories of time in Chicago

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Knicks' Brewer has fond memories of time in Chicago

Knicks swingman Ronnie Brewer's return to Chicago wasn't all positive, as his current team -- which leads the Eastern Conference -- dropped a 93-85 game to the Bulls at the United Center.

Still before Saturday night's contest, the ever-congenial veteran -- who starts for New York -- was in a good mood and reminisced about his two-year Bulls tenure. His time in Chicago ended after the organization declined to pick up his one-year team option over the summer, making him a free agent.

"It feels good. I stay in contact with the majority of the guys and some of the coaches," Brewer said. "We felt like we came up a little short my first year here with all the success we had and then coming into Year 2, we had so much high expectations and then D-Rose battling injuries throughout the year, we still had one of the best records in the league, and then with him going down in the playoffs, that was super tough.

"I know I don't miss Thibs' practices," he joked. "But the city was great, the fans were great, my teammates were amazing, so I can't really have any negative things to say about Chicago because my time here was great."

Brewer isn't bitter about how his stint in Chicago ended. Being the son of a former NBA player and having been traded from his original team, Utah, he understands the nature of the business.

"You get caught up in your feelings in the NBA, you're going to have an up-and-down life. You know what? It's part of the business, part of the game," Brewer said. "At the end of the day, it's still a blessing because you're still playing basketball. That's all you can ask of Chicago, New York, whatever team it is. It's still an opportunity to get out there every day and put your best foot forward, and play the game you love. I wish we could have kept it together. It was fun out there and great atmosphere here when we had the "Bench Mob" really going, but every good thing has to end."

"But it's a business at the end of the day, so that's kind of that point that you have to look at," he continued, detailing the process from his perspective when asked about whether factors like Derrick Rose's ACL injury and the luxury tax may have played into the organization's thinking. "Just like they did not sign us, they had the opportunity to pick up my option, keep Kyle and pick up C.J.'s option. They just didn't.

"I'm not the one signing the checks and spending the money, and going into the luxury tax. There's teams that are in the luxury tax that pay and win. It's a two-way street."

The Bulls' loss has been the Knicks' gain, as Brewer (who started in place of Rip Hamilton last season while the currently sidelined veteran was injured for the majority of his debut campaign in Chicago) starts for New York, a role he had with the Jazz earlier in his career. While the Knicks' three-point shooting has been a big part of their early-season success, so has a much-improved defense, an area Brewer saw where he could contribute.

"When I came to New York, I told Coach 'Woody' Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, whatever role he wants me to play on this team, like I was here, I'm open. I just want to play, be part of something special, so I think what I'm doing here, we have a lot of talented guys on this team and you've just got to fit in where you can. That's what I've been doing my whole career, so whatever's asked of me, I just try to do it to the best of my ability," Brewer said. "I remember playing against the Knicks, watching on film former Knicks swingman and current Toronto Raptor Landry Fields, injured second-year guard and Chicago-area native Iman Shumpert, different guys coming in, playing alongside Carmelo, Amar'e Stoudemire, the injured Knicks power forward, Tyson, former Knicks point guard and current Houston Rocket Jeremy Lin, how they cut to the basket, how they got shots. I felt like I could help the team out defensively and make plays offensively when it comes my way, and I feel like I had an opportunity to win.

Brewer's new teammates and coaches have already taken note of his impact on the floor, which isn't always reflected in statistics.

"Ronnie's big time," said Anthony, the team's superstar. "Defensively, he's just another smart player that we have on the court, another guy who knows how to play the game. He plays games within the game. A lot of times we're feeding off him out there on the defensive end, too."

Added Woodson: "Brewer adds some toughness, a guy that can defend. That was the whole idea for our organization this summer, to go out and find players that were willing to sacrifice some of their offense to defend the basketball and he's been one of those guys for us. That's why he starts for us. I like everything about what he's brought to our team."

Brewer said he sees some similarities between Thibodeau and Woodson, another defensive-minded coach, as well as the Bulls and Knicks as teams.

"They're different in a lot of ways, but they are similar by they're very into detail. Thibs is very particular of positioning defensively, Coach 'Woody' is the same way. They want excellence on defense and you can tell that since Coach Woodson's taken over, he's changed the mentality of the players on this team to defend and since Thibs has been the head coach, that's what he wants out of everybody on the team, from top to bottom. To me, defense wins championships and it gets you in a lot of games, so that's why I think both coaches have had a lot of success," he said.

"I've been fortunate enough to play with some really great guys here and the common denominator is Coach Thibs is a great coach, I think Coach 'Woody' is a great coach. You have an MVP candidate in D-Rose, Carmelo. Raymond Felton really re-established himself as one of the top-tier point guards. Tyson's playing really great defense, Joakim is playing great defense, Deng is playing great defense. So, it's a number of things that's similar on both teams, but it's the same solution. You defend, you rebound, low turnovers, you're going to be in a lot of NBA games."

Even with all of the attention the Knicks are receiving, Brewer is still keeping an eye on the Bulls, who are presently flying under the radar in Rose's absence.

"I don't think they had the start that they wanted, but that happens when you have a revamped roster. But with Thibs coaching the team, you know sooner or later, they're going to click, start defending like they need to, rebounding, just get the chemistry back going," he said. "I think injuries are part of the league, so it comes with the territory. Somebody's out, you've still got to play the game of basketball. I feel like teams have to step up and play beyond themselves whenever a superstar's out, so they're a still a dangerous team with or without him. I can't say you want to try to face them without Derrick Rose because they're still a dangerous team."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs visit White House as World Series champions

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs visit White House as World Series champions

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Kaplan is joined by David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) to discuss the Cubs' visit to the White House.

The guys reflect on the historic day and Theo Epstein's speech. Then, the panel breaks down the Packers' impressive run and question whether it's okay for Bears fans to appreciate Aarond Rodgers and company.

Finally, are the Wild the Blackhawks' biggest threat come playoff time?

Listen to the SportsTalk Live podcast below.

 

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

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USA TODAY

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

Midfield has been an area of focus this offseason for Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and another new addition to that group was added on Monday.

The Fire have traded $400,000 in general allocation money in return for midfielder Dax McCarty from the New York Red Bulls. Paul Tenorio of Four Four Two first reported the trade.

McCarty was an All-Star in 2015 and part of the league's Best XI that season when he had eight assists to go with a goal. Last season he made 26 starts for the Red Bulls and totaled three goals and had five assists.

"Since the middle of 2016, we made acquiring Dax our No. 1 priority," Rodr√≠guez said in the club's press release. "We believe adding his character and leadership in the locker room, as well as his exceptional soccer abilities on the field, dramatically improves our team."

The last time McCarty played at Toyota Park was a 2-2 draw on July 31 when a Khaly Thiam tackle caused a fractured tibia, which forced McCarty to sit out a month.

McCarty got married on Saturday, which delayed his arrival to the current U.S. national team camp. McCarty's participation in national team camp means he will join the Fire's preseason already in progress. The final match of the camp is on Feb. 3 while the Fire are set to start preseason on January 23.

McCarty, 29, has spent the past five and a half seasons with the Red Bulls. He began his career by playing five seasons for FC Dallas and was with D.C. United for part of the 2011 campaign before being traded to the Red Bulls. As an 11-year league veteran and the Red Bulls' captain, McCarty adds leadership and experience which Rodriguez has prioritized this offseason.

The Fire already added a former MLS All-Star in midfield this offseason in Juninho. The pair could line up next to each other in the preferred 4-2-3-1 coach Veljko Paunovic used for most of last season. This also could potentially put Matt Polster's role with the team in question. As the roster stands now, the third-year midfielder would be competing for two veteran All-Star caliber midfielders who were brought in at a high price.

Not to suggest a position move is in the works for Polster, but he did split time between midfield and right back with the Fire in 2015 under coach Frank Yallop and played there for the U-23 national team in Olympic qualifying. Right back remains a position of need by Rodriguez's own admission.

The trade also adds further context to the Fire trading the No. 3 pick in the draft on Friday. The Fire swapped the pick for $250,000 in general allocation money from New York City FC and Tenorio is reporting the Fire will send $400,000 to the Red Bulls for McCarty. To add those two moves together, the Fire dealt the No. 3 overall pick and $150,000 of allocation money for McCarty.