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."

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Here are some of Sunday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Patrick Kane leads Blackhawks to win in Buffalo homecoming

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Wojnarowski: Bulls-Celtics Jimmy Butler trade talks 'will loom over the entire week'

After surreal offseason, Ben Zobrist comes to Cubs camp in style as World Series MVP

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

Fire score five goals for fourth preseason win

Simeon beats rival Morgan Park for city championship

Former Northwestern football player Torri Stuckey now focuses on helping others

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

NEW ORLEANS — Every All-Star isn’t created equal, even by the slimmest of margins as the best 24 NBA players take their turn on the midseason stage.

So Jimmy Butler being announced among the first five as an All-Star starter had to represent some form of validation, now that he’s not a novice at the whole experience and he’s able to go through the motions of the hectic weekend without breaking much of a sweat.

But despite being a three-time All-Star and routinely mentioned as one of the game’s top 15 players or even top 10, he can’t shake the trade rumors that have seemed to follow him since this time last season.

As he finished up his All-Star experience at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, clarity was nowhere to be found—although heading to some tropical island for a couple days to actually unwind with clear water and warm air seemed to be the best therapy if he’s stressed by the uncertainty of the next few days.

“What’s Thursday? Oh, trade deadline,” Butler said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Am I anxious? Come on, man. I don’t worry about it. It don’t bother or scare me none.”

“Hopefully I’m not going to get traded but I don’t know. I don’t control that. Control what I can control, like going on vacation.”

Surely it has to be frustrating for a guy who’s elevated his game yet again, averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals for the Bulls in 51 games. But he refuses to let it damper his All-Star spirits, playing with some of the best players in the world and a few guys he calls friends, like DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Durant.

“Not for me,” said Butler of the potential stress. “Not saying I’m untradeable but I don’t think about that. If I’m not in a Bulls uniform, I’ll give you a hug and say goodbye to you.”

Moments after Butler made his statement in the media room, the floodgates opened for the trade market as fellow Olympian DeMarcus Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans for what seemed to be mere fodder, pennies on the dollar for the most talented center in the NBA.

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

While Cousins is far more of a handful than Butler could be, the trade almost signals a consistent truth that always bears repeating—that short of a select few, anybody can be traded.

Even a franchise altering talent like Cousins, who was traded to the city he was physically in for All-Star weekend, and included in the package of players was a guy who hit him in the groin last week (Buddy Hield), resulting in a Cousins outburst and ejection.

Butler has made his name with the Bulls, although not necessarily on the All-Star stage, a player who values defense and doesn’t have as much flash as some of the game’s shinier players.

With a six-point outing in 20 minutes, Butler was an on-court afterthought despite being a starter for the first time.

“Six? Should’ve gone for eight,” he sarcastically deadpanned.

In a relatively jovial mood through the weekend, Butler joked about the talk surrounding him and tried to brush it off as mere chatter as opposed to the franchise not seeing enough in him to make a firm commitment for the long-term, as the Boston Celtics are always hovering.

League sources expect the Celtics to engage the Bulls in conversations for the next few days, but nobody has a great feel for what either side is truly looking for.

But as Butler insisted, he’s only controlling what he can control, which is making himself a fixture for All-Star games to come as opposed to some of the first-timers who don’t know if they’ll get back here again.

“I think I got two underneath my belt,” Butler said. “I know what they’re feeling the first time, It’s so surreal like maybe I do belong here. That’s how I was thinking. Now it’s how do I get here every year? I think that’s the fun part, that’s the challenge. A lot of those guys have done it 10-plus years, hopefully I’m one.”

The only question seems to be, which uniform will it be in because the crazy season has begun.