I had the opportunity to have a Q&A session with Chicago Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer. Brewer has had an up and down career since the Utah Jazz selected him 14th overall out of Arkansas in the 2006 draft.
He had his best season with Utah in 2008-09 where he average 13.7 points per game. His numbers went down the following year and he was traded to the Memphis Grizzles where, unfortunately, he had a season-ending hamstring injury.
He agreed to a deal with the Bulls in 2010. Brewer, who average 6.2 ppg last season, is currently in his hometown – Fayetteville, Arkansas – where he has been working hard to improve his game during the NBA lockout.
What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during the lockout?
“Staying in shape. Working on my game. I had a prior engagement where I was giving out school supplies to the local youth at the Boys and Girls Club. Had a dinner to raise money for a new gym at the area Boys and Girls Club. But that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. Staying in shape, working on my game and doing as much as I can in the community while I’m in town.”
What are your thoughts on other NBA players playing overseas during the lockout and have you consider that option?
“I think you definitely have to look into it and make sure if it’s the right situation and right opportunity for you. Playing in the NBA is a lot of people’s livelihood. That’s the way that they make a living. You take that away you have to find a way to make money. Hopefully an agreement can be reached and we can start playing, but it’s definitely an opportunity. It’s a realization that out lockout might be last for a few months or maybe the entire season. So you have to look into it. I’ve been in talks with my agent about different situations.”
Are you optimistic that the lockout will end sooner than what is expected?
“Yeah, for sure. Hopefully it won’t be a long lockout at all. [Hope] that we won’t miss any time or miss any games. Right now it’s just talks and that’s as far as it goes. I’m hoping we can get something situated so we can move on.”
Last season, the Bulls swept the Miami Heat during the regular season but the team lost 4-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals. From your perspective what didn’t your team do in the ECF that you all did do during the season to defeat the Heat?
“We didn’t execute down the stretch. I think while we were playing during the season we played very well down the stretch. In crunch time, in the last three minute of the game, we just didn’t play well in the playoffs against those guys. I think in game one we came out with a lot of intensity and a lot of fire. In games 2, 3, and 4 I think we just didn’t play our style of basketball and our style of basketball is what matters in the last few minutes. To me that was the turning point of our season and that’s what allowed us to get put out by the Miami Heat.”
After the Bulls were eliminated what was the conversation like in the locker room after the game between the coach [Tom Thibodeau] and the players? What were some words he said to you all to keep you all encouraged?
“Mostly motivation. He said basically ‘y’all look around at each other faces. Remember this feeling because you don’t want to be on the end of this stick anymore. We want to be the team celebrating in the locker room, excited about going to the Finals and having the opportunity to play for a world championship. And every time you’re working out and you get tired, and every time you lifting weights and conditioning, remember this feeling. Remember how we felt like now and how everyone faces looked at that moment. And after you get that motivation continue to work hard, continue to get better and come back next year better that you did this year. And be looking forward to a long season next year because we plan on being in the same position next year and go farther than we did last year.’”
Before you got to Chicago last year you were traded to the Memphis Grizzlies and unfortunately you had the season-ending hamstring injury. Usually when a player has a season-ending injury it takes awhile, usually a full year, for a player to get back to 100-percent. Did you feel that you were at 100-percent to play your best basketball?
“Honestly, at the start of the season I tweaked by hamstring again. So that was another thing I had to overcome. It took me awhile to get back where I needed to be but I felt like midway during the season I started getting my stride and started getting used to the offense and the new guys on the team. To me the last month in the season I got better and I improved. I’m optimistic about where I’m at right now and where the team is going. I’m really looking forward to getting back out there and improving and being able to help my team out.”
If there is a season this year do you believe you’ll be at 100-percent?
“For sure. I’ve been working really hard to improve my game, to get stronger, faster, quicker and more explosive. I think I’ve come along fairly well. I just have to continue to work hard and to get better. When I do that I’ll be okay.”
What was it like playing with MVP Derrick Rose?
“I think at times I tend to watch him because he does so many things very well. He had so many highlights. So a lot times you’re just basically watching him do his thing. To me he makes everyone around him better. He made everybody good and I think that’s really what a true leader does. To me it was just a blessing to be around him.”
What did you learn from him specifically to help elevate your game?
“Work ethic. He came in as one of the best players in the league and he worked the hardest. He came in early, got shots up. Stay late, got shots up. Continued to condition on a regular basis and tom me I think that made everyone work Hard to get better. Watching what he was doing, I didn’t want to be the guy who wasn’t working harder or not bringing their game. So everyone came in and worked as hard as he did night in and night out.”
What do you think you need to improve on to help the team get to the next level, the Finals?
“Me personally, I think you can always work on something in your game. You want your ball handling to get better or conditioning in the weight room to get stronger. For me I just got to continue to work on my jump shot and make it where I’m shooting with confidence in clutch situations. I think if I continue to do that then I can help the team and push the team to a championship.”
What do you think the team needs to do to get to the next level?
“I think we were right there. If we didn’t have some mishaps late in the 4th quarter we could have been in the Finals. I feel pretty comfortable with the guys on our team and the direction the direction that we’re going. I think everybody is improving and ready and anxious to get back to work.”
Talk about the water slide injury you had as a child that gave you an “unorthodox shooting technique.”
“When I was a child I had went to the lake where they had an annual event, a back-to-school event. I was on the water slide and I couldn’t swim that good so I was trying to slow down a little bit. And I ended up putting my arm out the slide and it got hit and I ended up have a compound fracture. Twelve years later at the draft it was a constant thing that they kept bringing up and how my shot was different. But it doesn’t really bother me. I’ve adjusted to how I shoot and continue to work hard. Maybe people will stop talking about it”.
Your dad, Ron Brewer, also played in the NBA and played at Arkansas and he helped his team reach the Final Four in 1978. What did he teach you about the game when you were a kid?
“He taught me everything about the game. He was the one who taught me the basic fundamentals about basketball. All the things on the defensive end, how to dribble, how to pass, how to move out the basketball, how to play the passing lane, how to dribble with your head up so you can see everyone around the court. Everything I know about basketball I learned from him.”
At Arkansas did you feel any pressure to be as successful as or better than your dad was?
“Not necessarily. My dad actually didn’t want me to play basketball because he didn’t want there to be a comparison. But I never felt like there was much of a comparison. He played in the 70s and I wasn’t a part of that time. I never really felt any pressure or anything. I just went out and played the game as hard as I could and had the opportunity to enjoy it while I was playing. He supported me and made me aware that there was no pressure.”