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/

Mark Cuban’s plan for a restart, “I don’t think we can go the old tried and true way”

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Wild, fanciful ideas for restarting the NBA that would never fly in a typical year — 1-16 seeding, or maybe a soccer World Cup-style group stage — are getting an airing this season because everything is on the table. As the NBA moves closer to a restart plan, countless ideas are being floated.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has his own plan.

Shocking, I know. But it’s interesting.

“What I proposed is that we extend the playoff format to 10 teams from each conference, and play at least five games prior to going into playoffs,” Cuban said laying out is plan to NBC’s Mike Tirico on “Lunch Talk Live.” And if we do that, every team in the Eastern Conference would have a chance to make the playoffs, and all but two in the Western Conference would do it [Ed. note: Golden State and Minnesota].

“Then, what I would do, once we got 10 and 10, I would reseed them, and 17 would play 20, and 18 would play 19, in a one-game series. The winner then would take on the eighth-place seed in a five-game series, while the No. 1 seed in each conference would get a bye. Then you go ahead normally from there.

“That gives us a chance to have more meaningful games, it gives almost every team a chance when we come back for whatever is left of our regular season. I think we’ve got to change it up some, I don’t think we can go the old tried and true way.”

Cuban later added, speaking to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, that he wants to see all 30 teams come to Orlando for regular season games, building excitement for the NBA’s return in every market. This dream, however, seems a long shot, and Damian Lillard spoke for a lot of players when he said he’s not playing if there is not a path to the playoffs for Portland.

Cuban’s point that this is the year to try something different, not to play it safe, has real validity. This season is already upside down due to the corona

Cuban’s plan is a long shot, but is it any longer a shot than any of the other ones out there?

 

Wizards’ Bradley Beal: Thunder considered trading James Harden for me on draft day 2012

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The first three picks of the 2012 NBA Draft, which was held in June:

1. New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans): Anthony Davis

2. Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets): Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal

That August, the Thunder reportedly offered to trade James Harden to Washington for Beal. Washington reportedly rejected the offer due to Harden’s desire for a max contract extension (which Wizards owner Ted Leonsis denied). The Rockets were more than willing to pay Harden, and Oklahoma City dealt him to Houston that October.

Apparently, Washington had a chance to land Harden earlier that offseason.

Beal on “All The Smoke:”

We’re sitting in the draft room. Sure enough, my agent is tapping me. He’s like, “It’s possible you might go to OKC.” I said, “Damn, how am I going to go there? I ain’t even worked out for OKC.” I only worked out for three teams – Washington, Cleveland and Charlotte.

So, the deal was to trade James to Washington, right? OKC gets the third pick. It was either the second or third pick. They were going to trade up to 2 or 3, get me, trade James to Washington.

I would have been in OKC with KD and Russ.

That was a last-minute decision. It was almost done.

I can’t tell whether Beal is also revealing a Harden-to-Charlotte offer or just got mixed up on which teams held the Nos. 2 and 3 picks. Obviously, if Beal was the main prize to the Thunder, they would’ve cared only minimally whether they got him with the No. 2 or No. 3 pick. So, there might have been trade talks with Charlotte, too.

But I’m not convinced Oklahoma City valued Beal that way.

The Thunder were a championship contender. They had just lost in the 2012 NBA Finals to the Heat. Oklahoma City couldn’t have depended on a rookie Beal to contribute on that level.

That’s why – in addition to picks/young player acquired from the Rockets for Harden – the Thunder also got Kevin Martin. The veteran Martin was much better than Beal in 2012-13. (Ironically, the open title window was also a strong argument for just keeping Harden, whatever his contract status).

But the 2012-13 season didn’t go as planned for Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook got hurt early in the playoffs, and the Thunder lost to the Grizzlies in the second round. Martin left for a lucrative contract with the Timberwolves the following summer.

Even with the long runway Kevin Durant and Westbrook provided, Oklahoma City never got back to the Finals. Beal could have grown into a third star whose shooting complemented the duo. The Thunder might have won a championship with this trade (or, again, just keeping Harden).

The Wizards almost certainly would have won more. Harden has perennially gotten the Rockets to the playoff. (They’ve gone further in years he has had more help.) Beal hasn’t singlehandedly carried Washington like that.

So, this is an interesting “what if?” – if you take it at face value.

Beal’s agent warning him of a trade possibility means something. But we don’t know which other pieces were involved.

The Thunder didn’t trade Harden until just before the rookie-scale-extension deadline, suggesting they wanted to give themselves time to extend him themselves before taking the drastic step of trading him. Would Beal have been enough of a return to give up in June (or even August) on keeping Harden? Maybe. Harden didn’t fully blossom until reaching Houston. But I’m skeptical. At minimum, Harden had already established himself as young and good. Beal was young, promising and under greater team control. There’s significant value in the certainty of a player being at least a near-star, and Harden – not Beal – had that.

Even in hindsight, we’re still revisiting the situation with only limited information.

Report: NBA games could resume in August, not July

Bucks center Brook Lopez and Raptors center Marc Gasol
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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A week ago, the NBA was looking to resume games in July at Disney World.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

In fact, there’s a possibility the first games played in Orlando could be in August, not July, sources said.

It’s good the NBA is being flexible on a start date. The coronavirus presents so much uncertainty.

The league is approaching its most lucrative time – the playoffs. The NBA should make every effort to play the postseason, whenever that can be done safely.

Everyone can figure out next season later, especially because there’s a willingness to delay the start.

Report: Pistons searching for new general manager

Pistons executive Ed Stefanski
Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Pistons hired Ed Stefanski as a senior advisor to owner Tom Gores in 2018. Among Stefanski’s duties: Assist in the ongoing search for a new head of basketball operations. But it quickly became clear Stefanski would just run the front office himself.

Now, two years later, Detroit is finally getting around to that general-manager search.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Detroit Pistons are opening a search to hire a general manager to work with senior advisor Ed Stefanski, sources tell ESPN.

Stefanski will be working with Pistons and Palace Sports Vice Chairman Arn Tellem on the process to hire a GM, sources said.

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

If Stefanski is still running the front office, a new general manager would be the No. 2 – equivalent to assistant general manager on many teams.

After taking over an inflexible roster left by Stan Van Gundy, Stefanski couldn’t do much. Stefanski’s big move was trading Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers just before the trade deadline. That positioned Detroit to have major cap space next offseason, but it’s unclear how much will actually materialize. The salary cap could drop due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pistons must determine whether they’re still building around Blake Griffin, the 31-year-old due $36,810,996 and $38,957,028 the next two years. Last season, he returned to stardom and carried Detroit into the playoffs. This season, he missed most of the year due to injury.

If they’re trying to win now with Griffin, the Pistons are short on quality complementary players. If Detroit is ready to rebuild, its pool of young talent – Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya, Bruce Brown, impending free agent Christian Wood, its own first-round pick – is hardly assured of success.

After years of being stuck on a path charted under the Van Gundy regime, the Pistons can soon pick a new course. This is the time get the front office up to full staffing.