This week was all about a skinny 32-year-old nicknamed “The Drunken Dribbler” who’d been playing with his kids, staying in shape and patiently waiting for an NBA opportunity.
Here are some observations on “The Corey Brewer Week,” during which the Sixers (32-18) beat the Rockets and Spurs and lost to the Nuggets.
• The buzz about Brewer will eventually die down some, but he’s not a gimmick or a fluke. He has real, valuable NBA skills.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that, in each of his three starts, Brewer has looked like the fastest player on the floor. He scored the Sixers’ first points against the Rockets just by beating everyone else down the court by a good second or two, then waiting for Ben Simmons to deliver him the ball.
As Joel Embiid said, Brewer did an excellent job executing his role of "annoy and play great defense on the other team’s best player” against James Harden and DeMar DeRozan (see story). The energy, intensity and aggravation are all positive, intangible qualities, but Brewer also has legitimate defensive skills. He slides his feet well and has sharp instincts off the ball, with eight steals this week.
Brewer’s 44.4 percent clip from three-point range (on a grand total of nine attempts) will likely regress close to his poor career average of 28.4 percent. But even when he’s not hitting jump shots, Brewer’s smart cutting off the ball and raw speed force the defense to respect him, at least a little. The night he was signed to his first 10-day deal, Brewer mentioned that the way Simmons pushes the ball is “right up my alley,” and that’s proven true.
If Elton Brand trades for a player that he considers an upgrade on Brewer before the veteran's 10-day contract expires and decides not to sign Brewer for the rest of the season, you’d expect another team would be happy to take him. But every game Brewer plays, the thought of the Sixers letting him go seems less and less likely.
• To nobody’s surprise, Embiid is an All-Star starter for a second straight season (see story). Saturday night’s loss in Denver, which Embiid sat out, was a good illustration of his importance to the Sixers. Missing Jimmy Butler (sprained right wrist) and Wilson Chandler (left hamstring tightness) didn’t help either, but that’s another story.
The Sixers are capable of winning without Embiid, as they showed during the second half of their 16-game winning streak to conclude last season. Without Embiid, though, life is a lot harder for the Sixers. They miss Embiid’s low-post dominance, the attention he draws, the disdainful swatting away of shots, and the looks that opponents don’t bother to take because they know Embiid is lurking.
• Gregg Popovich isn’t the type of guy to casually toss around platitudes. For instance, he responded on Wednesday night to a question about why he chose Villanova coach Jay Wright as his assistant on USA Basketball by saying, “Hell of a coach, hell of a guy. … What do you want me to say? Are you my psychiatrist?”
So, when Popovich says of Brett Brown, “Brett doesn’t need anything from me. Brett’s fine. I learn as much from Brett as he learns from me,” you take him at face value.
That’s not to say Brown is in Popovich’s class yet as a head coach, but it’s perhaps worth listening to arguably the best coach in NBA history.
Everything Brown and his team did worked perfectly against Popovich’s Spurs in the final two minutes, 48 seconds of the Sixers’ wild comeback win.
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