After registering a DNP-CD--that's basketball jargon for the acronym "Did Not Play-Coach's Decision," which typically goes on the final statistics next to names like of fan favorite and deep reserve Brian Scalabrine in now-blowout situations--in Game 3 of the Bulls-76ers first-round playoff series, Ronnie Brewer took the high road. That doesn't mean it didn't sting.
"As a player, you dont ever want to be on the bench watching. You want to be able to get on the court and contribute, so having an opportunity in Game 4 and having another opportunity tonight, you want to add on to that and have another strong showing," he said. "Hopefully I can just continue to play better and continue to help this team out."
In Game 4, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went back to the reserve swingman and got valuable minutes, especially on the defensive end, even though the Bulls would lose the game. In Tuesday's Game 5 win, Brewer stepped it up another notch and played his role--high energy, defensive pest, opportunistic scorer, transition threat--perfectly and was a major reason why the Bulls staved off elimination, something his teammates acknowledged afterwards.
"Ronnie was great tonight. Even last game in Philly, when we were watching the tape, Coach kept talking about how great Ronnie was defensively and tonight, he did it again. He just has a knack for stealing the ball and getting into players, really affecting their shots," said Luol Deng.
"Ronnie responded great to not playing in that game. A lot of players, it could affect them with their game, sitting out the whole game, but Ronnies a pro and he knows what he needs to do to help us. Sometimes you might not see it in the stats, but defensively, hes one of the best. I really believe it. Just doesnt get a lot of credit for it, but he really comes in with a lot of energy and when hes in the game, were able to get stops, and go out and run."
Echoed Taj Gibson: "Ronnie Brewer stepped up big even after not playing in Game 3 at all. He came in, did a great job. Solid professional."
Chimed in Carlos Boozer: "To me, Ronnie Brewer was the player of the game. Came in and changed the whole game with his activity."
Brewer's modest six points doesn't tell the tale of his impact, though his eight rebounds, three steals, three assists and a blocked shot in 29 minutes of action begins to illustrate what he meant to Tuesday's season-saving victory. More importantly, his blanketing defense on Philadelphia's cadre of talented perimeter players, from scoring-oriented guards Jrue Holiday and sixth man Lou Williams to Chicago native Evan Turner and All-Star Andre Iguodala, ensured there wouldn't be another fourth-quarter defensive collapse, as the Sixers simply couldn't go one-on-one to create scoring opportunities with Brewer on guard.
"Coach Thibs told me I need to bring the energy of both ends of the floor. In the first half, I tried to do that. I got some easy baskets, my teammates were finding me. The second half, I just try to show as much energy on the defensive end as I possibly can, slow down some of their guards. Theyve been killing us the whole series. We tried to contest their shots and get easy baskets in transition," Brewer explained.
"We all know that whenever Thibs puts us in there, you have to be ready. If he doesnt call your name, you have an obligation to be the eyes and ears for the guys who are on the floor, so when he doesnt call my name out there, I still have my part by telling Lu, Rip, Kyle what I see out there and how they can have an effect on the game, so when you put me out there, I knew I had to bring something that was lacking and that was energy on the defensive end, and trying to get stops because, in my opinion, that was something that was lacking and their guards really have been hurting us this whole entire series."
Added Thibodeau: "It was just the flow of the game. I thought the energy that he brought and again, they have three very quick guys off the dribble. Youre looking at Holiday and Williams, and whether its Turner or Iguodala, I think Ronnie matches up well with those guys. I thought getting to loose balls, his defense, offensively Ronnie running the floor. I thought he played very well and the team was functioning well when he was on the floor...Ronnie Brewer was terrific."
It's doubtful that Thibodeau will again neglect Brewer, even if he's mired in an offensive slump, for an entire contest, given how well he proved to match up with the Sixers in Game 5, but the defensive-minded wing, one of the nicest, most genuine players you'll find in the league, let alone the team--and that's saying something--will continue to take the same approach team-first approach, regardless of the circumstances.
"The same situation the whole entire season. Guys have been hurt, Ive had to step in different situations. Rips been having it going, Lus been having it going, Kyles been knocking down shots, so youve just got to be patient and wait your turn. Tonight, Coach called upon me and I just had to be ready to go out there, and play hard," he said. "At the end of the day, we have one common goal and thats to win. If that means Kyle, Rip, Lu playing as many minutes and were winning, Im all about it. Im a team player and Im all about winning, so I take it to heart, being a true professional. Whenever your name is called, you have to be ready and thats all I can do."