Q&A: Corey Brewer on trade from Timberwolves, his 51-point game, Harden’s MVP case, Rockets vs. Mavericks

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Corey Brewer has been a key rotation player for the Rockets this season, after coming to Houston via trade from Minnesota in mid-December. I caught up with him recently to talk about how the trade came together, and how in the world he scored a career-high 51 points in a game last season, James Harden’s MVP-caliber impact, and why he believes Dwight Howard is the best center in the league. Our discussion is transcribed below.

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You began the season with the Timberwolves, and at the time there were reports that said you had requested to go to a contender, and that Minnesota gave you permission to speak with other teams. Can you kind of walk me through how that all went down?

“Minnesota’s a good organization, I was happy there. It wasn’t like I wanted to leave there, but you know, coach Saunders — we had a good relationship. He knew and I knew that they were going young, and it really wasn’t going to be a season for us to try to make the playoffs. For me, I’ve been in the league for eight years, and it’s all about playing in the playoffs. That’s what it’s about; you want to win a championship. He helped me out. We looked at the trade options, he gave me permission to talk to teams, and it worked out perfectly.”

Were there any other teams in the mix besides the Rockets?

“It was probably the Rockets and Cleveland. Those were basically the two teams.”

You had a career-high game against the Rockets the season before, how much might that have played a part in their level of interest?

“(Laughs) I don’t know if it played a part in it. Coach McHale drafted me actually, so we have a good relationship. We go way back to ’07.”

How did that happen, that 51-point game? As far as I could tell, your career-high before then was 29 points. You’re not really known as being a volume scorer like that, so how does that happen?

“Well, Kevin Love wasn’t playing, and Kevin Martin wasn’t playing, so there was a lot of shots out there. I hit my first four out of five, and there wasn’t nobody else taking shots, so I had the opportunity to be a scorer. It worked out perfect — and we got the win.”

So you guys have the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. You beat them 3-1 during the regular season, can you take anything from those regular season meetings, or do you kind of have to throw that all out and start from scratch?

“You can take stuff from it, like what they did against us and how we were able to stop them, and what we did against them and how we can keep doing it. But also, it’s going to be totally different. In the playoffs, they’re going to make adjustments, we’re going to make adjustments. So it’s all about coming out in Game 1 and trying to impose our will on them.”

Where are some areas where you think you might have an advantage in the series?

“We have to get out in transition, and we have to take advantage of getting [Dwight Howard] the ball. Him and [James Harden] in pick-and-rolls should be really good for us.”

How big is it to have Dwight back healthy? He missed 40 games during the regular season, but you were still able to keep it together.

“It’s huge having Dwight back. Dwight’s a beast. He’s still probably the best center in the league, even though he’s been hurt lately. He’s still the best center in the league the way he impacts the game —  blocking shots, when he’s in pick-and-rolls, everybody (on the defense) has to help. It’ll be big for us to have him back.”

Most people have the MVP race down to James Harden and Stephen Curry. I went with Harden, I think what he’s done for you guys has been incredible, and not to take anything away from Curry, because they’re both probably equally deserving. I’m not going to ask you who your pick is, because I’m sure you’ll go with your guy Harden, but what has he meant to you guys? Why is he the MVP this year?

“He’s done a lot for us. Before me and [Josh Smith] got here, Dwight was hurt and he was out there carrying the team. It was him and [Trevor Ariza], they were playing like 45 minutes a game. It was crazy. Then when we got here, he upped his ability — the way he’s been scoring, the way he’s been passing, he just makes us go. He makes us so much better when he’s aggressive. When he’s scoring, then they start helping on him and he can really pass. The things he’s doing right now are unbelievable. He can go out there and get 50, and then the next night get a triple-double. It’s crazy.”

Tell me about some of the work you’re doing with the University of Florida Diabetes Institute.

“The Center for Diabetes is excellent. They’re trying to find a cure for diabetes, and I do a basketball camp in the summer, the Corey Brewer Back2Back Basketball Camp — it’ll be in Gainesville. I’ve been doing that for the last six or seven years and give all the funds to the diabetes foundation. It’s all about trying to find a cure, man. It’s very unfortunate because my dad passed away from diabetes, and my mom has diabetes also. So I know what it’s like for someone who has diabetes to go through that.”

Corey Brewer supports his alma mater, The University of Florida Diabetes Institute to raise money for education and awareness to prevent diabetes and those living with the disease.

For more info: http://www.coreybrewer.com/foundation/

Report: Rockets tried to give away Chris Paul, but teams – including Knicks – said no

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Rockets general manager Daryl Morey not only denied a report that Chris Paul demanded a trade, Morey said Paul would remain in Houston next season.

We might never know how tense the situation has gotten between Paul and James Harden. We might never know whether Paul requested a trade.

But we will know whether Paul begins next season in Houston.

Morey’s credibility is on the line with that. Will he really refuse to trade Paul? That’s not Morey’s style.

More likely, Morey made that declaration only after exhausting the market for Paul and the three years, $124,076,442 remaining on his contract.

Shams Charania of The Athletic, via CBS:

There’s not a team in the league right now that is like, “I’m going to go trade for Chris Paul.” Even some teams that they’ve called, I’m told, as just a dump, like, “We’ll give you Chris Paul for free,” those teams are like “We’re good.” So, the value just is not there right now.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

The Rockets recently explored trading Chris Paul into New York’s cap space, but the Knicks refused, according to league sources.

Good for the Knicks resisting. With Kyrie Irving apparently (maybe?) headed to the Nets and Kevin Durant‘s future up in the air, that’s the type of desperate move New York is known to make.

Paul, 34, is overpaid and declining. No team should absorb his contract into cap space.

But he’s still pretty good. Not nearly as good as he once was, but good enough to help the Rockets. Their championship window hasn’t necessarily snapped completely shut yet. There’s value in keeping Paul and trying to repair his and Harden’s relationship.

There also might be better opportunities later in the summer to trade Paul. Teams want to preserve their cap space now for free agents. But some teams will strike out and might view Paul as a good fallback option.

Of course, if Morey thought a deal later in the offseason were a possibility, he probably wouldn’t have so explicitly insisted Paul will remain in Houston.

Report: Minnesota “aggressive” in trying to trade up in draft, talked to Pelicans about fourth pick

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The Minnesota Timberwolves are slotted to pick 11th in the NBA Draft Thursday night. There they could land players along the lines of Brandon Clarke or Rui Hachimura, both of Gonzaga.

The Timberwolves have their sights set higher and they are looking to move up in the draft — maybe all the way to No. 4, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic fleshed out some details.

Among the options being considered, as first reported by ESPN, is moving all the way up to No. 4, presumably for a shot at Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland. He missed most of his lone season in college due to a knee injury, but prior to that was widely scouted as the top point guard in the draft class. Interest in such a move is indicative of Rosas’s mindset of star-chasing, an approach honed in Houston.

That sounds great in theory, but what is the deal to be made for the fourth pick? David Griffin of the Pelicans has made it clear the No. 4 pick is available, but they want a veteran — and one not too old — in return. The Timberwolves don’t have that guy on their roster. (Technically they do in Andrew Wiggins, but that’s not a contract — four years, $122.3 million remaining — that the Pelicans would take on.)

Minnesota’s head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas told The Athletic how hard this kind of trade can be.

“The reality is, and history will tell you, it’s hard to trade up into the top three of the draft, even top five in the lottery,” Rosas said. “It’s very difficult. We know, because we’re tried, and will continue to try. But that price, the premium that teams charge for that is at a high level in any draft in any year.”

Minnesota seems a long shot, but don’t be surprised if the Pelicans trade the No. 4 pick. New Orleans has worked hard to find someone to take that pick off their hands, so long as they get a fair price back.

Report: Nets debating whether or not to sign Kyrie Irving without Kevin Durant

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The Nets want to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Brooklyn appears set to get Irving. Durant a much bigger unknown.

Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

The question is if they can’t land Durant, do they still want Irving?

It also has become an internal debate the Nets are having right now.

The Post has confirmed Brooklyn might have qualms about signing the enigmatic Irving if he isn’t bringing the injured Durant with him.

Irving brings chemistry concerns, to be sure. He’s mercurial, and his season with the Celtics raises legitimate questions about him leading a team.

But Irving is a major talent upgrade. To win at the highest levels, teams must assemble a lot of talent and hope for the best.

I’d also caution Brooklyn against assuming re-signing D'Angelo Russell would mean the team maintains its current culture. The Nets can’t freeze time. Situations change. People change. There’s no guarantee Russell on a lucrative contract and his teammates jell as well as contract-year Russell and his teammates did.

Keeping Russell might look like the safe route, but nothing is assured.

The other huge issue: Durant might not know where he’ll sign when Irving is ready to commit. The Nets could have to decide on Irving before knowing whether Durant will accompany him. At that point, would Brooklyn really spurn Irving and a chance at getting both stars? I can’t see that.

Really, with so much talk of Irving joining the Nets, I thought we’d already crossed that threshold.

Report: Bucks trading Tony Snell, No. 30 pick to Pistons

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For a team only lukewarm on paying the luxury tax, the Bucks are in a payroll crunch. Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic will be free agents this summer.

That’s why Milwaukee was trying to unload Tony Snell or Ersan Ilyasova.

But if they re-sign their key free agents to multi-year deals, the Bucks could face more payroll/tax concerns in 2020-21.

That’s why Milwaukee is willing to deal Snell and its first-round pick for Jon Leuer‘s burdensome contract – which carries a slightly lower salary than Snell’s next season ($9,508,043 vs. $11,592,857) and, more importantly, ends one year before Snell’s ($12,378,571 player option for 2020-21),

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This trade lowers Milwaukee’s team salary by about $4 million next season and $14 million the following season.

The Bucks could stretch Leuer and reduce team salary by an extra $6,338,695 next season. But that’d also lock in a cap hit of $3,169,348 each of the next three years.

Milwaukee can make that decision later in the summer. It’ll depend what other free agents – especially Lopez, who has only Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights – command. Clearing extra money this offseason could be useful in multiple scenarios.

If Lopez signs for the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (which projects to start at about $9 million), the Bucks could maintain Bird Rights for Middleton, Brogdon and Mirotic then exceed the cap to re-sign those three. But Milwaukee would be hard-capped at a projected $138 million. Stretching Leuer could help the Bucks stay under that line.

If re-signing Lopez requires more than the mid-level exception, Milwaukee could open about $14 million in cap space by waiving George Hill and renouncing all its free agents besides Middleton and Brogdon. Stretching Leuer would open even more cap room to spend on Lopez.

If Lopez leaves, the same math applies to an outside free agent who could get the mid-level exception or cap room.

This extra maneuverability comes at a cost, though a reasonable one.

Snell, who fell from the Bucks’ rotation, could be the Pistons’ starting small forward next season. Detroit was desperate for wing depth. Though Snell isn’t the biggest wing, he adds size to a group comprised of Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown and Langston Galloway.

The No. 30 pick is a helpful piece to the Pistons, who also have the No. 15 pick in tomorrow’s draft. But this is a weak-looking draft that thins considerably before the end of the first round.

Milwaukee also had to take Leuer, who has been ineffective for years.

Detroit gets helps now with Snell and potentially later with the No. 30 pick. In between, that extra year of Snell’s contract looks burdensome.

The Bucks are just happy to have it not be theirs.