On the day that Sam Presti pulled the trigger, if not pulled one over, on the deal with New York that brought Ronnie Brewer to town, the Thunder general manager immediately pointed out the decorated history of his team's newest perimeter defender.
“More impressive to us is the fact that he's played for some organizations that we really have a lot of respect for,” Presti said.
One by one, players began repeating a similar message.
“He learned how to play defense under Jerry Sloan so he has a pretty good pedigree to him,” said Thunder guard Kevin Martin.
Brewer finally made it to town after the Thunder acquired him Thursday in exchange for what could be the last pick in the 2014 draft. He sat on the bench in a sport coat Sunday against Chicago, one of his former teams, and received a warm welcome from his newest fans when introduced midway through the opening period.
Before the game, Brewer talked a little business, specifically his prized pedigree.
He was drafted by Utah with the 14th overall pick in 2006. He spent 3 1/2 seasons with the Jazz under Sloan before being traded to Memphis. The following offseason, he signed with the Bulls as a free agent and played the next two seasons under coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Bulls coach basically gushed over Brewer when asked what kind of player the Thunder was getting. He used words such as smart, tough and great teammate. He said Brewer can guard multiple positions, pass on the perimeter and feed the post and move well without the ball.
“He'll fill any role you ask him to fill,” Thibodeau said.
The Thunder needs Brewer's defense.
Based solely on first impressions, Brewer interviewed like he was the right man for the job. Asked how he plans to defend LeBron James in a potential NBA Finals rematch, Brewer said the same he approaches every player.
“You've got to treat every player you come across as the premier player in this league,” Brewer said. “So I'm going to approach whoever is in front of me as if they're the best player in this league.”
It's a part of his pedigree.
Sloan and Thibodeau taught Brewer, like all their players, to how to respect the game and be a professional.
“Any time you see their players, they always have that same professionalism and toughness and respect for their team and their teammates,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “And Brewer is the same way. Just talking to him today, you know that he has that serious approach about the game and about what he brings to the team.”
Martin and Kevin Durant, two of the Thunder's top three scorers, both said they hated playing against Brewer. His length and powerful 6-foot-7 frame, they said, give scorers fits. His defensive instincts, meanwhile, make it a must that opponents stay sharp.
Not mentioned were Brewer's smarts, something he prides himself on.
“It's all about paying attention to detail,” Brewer said of defense. “As a player, you might not really think that's that serious. You make a turnover, or you might allow a guy to get an offensive rebound and get a tip-in. But every point counts. Every mishap counts, in the playoffs and down the stretch.”
Fortunately for Brewer, he's joining a team the he believes already understands that the small things add up. It should help him come in and, as he said, get in where he fits in, rather than have to put the team's defense on his shoulders.
“This team has been able to go really far in the playoffs and have some success,” Brewer said, “and I think those guys understand a play here or a play there can be the turning point of winning and losing and winning a championship.”