Bulls

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."

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.