Bulls eager for reunion with Brewer, showdown with Knicks
December 8, 2012, 10:00 am
AUBURN HILLS, MICH. — The second of the “Bench Mob” reunions — the first at the United Center — will occur Saturday evening. Former Bulls reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer, now a Knicks starter, makes his first visit to Chicago since being waived over the summer.
Brewer was a much-beloved figure in the Bulls’ locker room over the last two seasons and made valuable contributions as a versatile defender and underrated offensive player, helping the team to back-to-back league-high regular-season win totals. Understandably, the holdovers from last season are eager to see him again.
“It’s going to be great to see Ronnie again," Taj Gibson said. "I keep in contact with him throughout the season. He hits me up from time to time. We talk, we’re real close. That was my guy. That was one of the guys I hung out with a lot on this team, so I’m happy for him, being on another good team, playoff-bound team and he’s playing great. I think his role is even better. He’s a starter. He’s starting on that team, he’s playing great defense, he’s knocking down that three-pointer, which I know he can do — he’s been working on it, even when he was here — he’s playing with a lot of confidence and he’s just adjusting to that role on that team, of being one of those good defensive stoppers.
“He was a real veteran. He was one of those guys that was never too high, never too low, always encouraging, always had your back. You could always count on him, he was a great teammate and he’s on another good team, and you could tell the way that they’re playing, that he’s inspiring them to play good defense and it’s showing.”
Carlos Boozer, who played with Brewer both in Utah and Chicago, added: “It’s just going to be good to see him. We’ve been talking the whole season. He’s been playing great for them, starting, obviously doing the same thing he always does, trying to lock up the other team’s best perimeter player. Tomorrow, I’m sure he’ll be on Lu a lot. But having a great season. I look forward to seeing my brother, man.”
Luol Deng chimed in: “It’ll be cool, man. Ronnie, Kurt Thomas. It’s going to be good to see those guys. It’s always good to see ex- [Bulls] players and play against them.”
Even Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, usually not one to be overly sentimental, spoke about Brewer in glowing terms.
“Ronnie’s just a great team player. That’s who he is. He plays to win, plays for the team, hard-playing, does a little bit of everything, can score, pass, play-make, play great defense and he’s a great teammate. Very coachable,” the coach said. “He did a great job for us when he was here and he’s doing a great job for the Knicks.”
Of course, once the game starts, Thibodeau might not be feeling so charitable. New York is coming off a huge blowout road win over defending champion Miami — without superstar Carmelo Anthony or the sidelined Amar’e Stoudemire, let alone Chicago-area native Iman Shumpert — and is currently the top team in the Eastern Conference, using a mix of improved defense, a three-point shooting barrage, unselfish play and a deep, experienced roster, including the NBA’s oldest player, Kurt Thomas, another former Bull of recent vintage.
“Tomorrow’s huge. They’re flying high. They played very well against Miami yesterday. They’re going to be rested and ready to go tomorrow,” Joakim Noah said. “They’re playing very well. They’re playing probably the best basketball in the NBA right now. It’s on us to come in ready.”
Deng added: “It’s tough. They’re already there [in Chicago], they’re waiting. They played well, they’re feeling great. They won their last game, they’re at the top of the East. They’re playing well, so their confidence is high right now and coming in tomorrow, it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Boozer concurred: “They’ve been playing great. We watched a little bit of it last night, when they played Miami. They played phenomenal without ‘Melo and Amar’e, which is hard to do, especially playing one of the more talented teams in Miami, but they’re a three-point shooting team, they have the green light, they have a monster in the middle in Tyson [Chandler] and they’ve got great leadership. They’ve got ‘J-Kidd,’ they’ve got other veteran guys, Kurt Thomas is there, Rasheed is there. They’ve got guys that have been through some wars, mixed in with a good group of young talent. That being said, it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
Coming off a big win over Detroit -- but perhaps tougher than necessary -- and flying back to Chicago overnight after a two-game road trip before taking on the top team in the East, Thibodeau, a former Knicks assistant coach is wary of his team's upcoming test.
“They’re on top of the conference, playing very, very well," he said. "Deep, talented, shooting the ball extremely well. Playing great defense, playing together, playing hard. We’ve got to be ready.”
Tags: Tom Thibodeau
, new york knicks
, Luol Deng
, Chicago Bulls
, Taj Gibson
, Carmelo Anthony
, carlos boozer
, amar'e stoudemire
, Kurt Thomas
, Ronnie Brewer
, Iman Shumpert
, Bench Mob