LAS VEGAS – Newly signed Corey Brewer is back where his NBA career started, but his return to the Timberwolves is not, as a famous philosopher from another sport once said, déjà vu all over again.
Drafted by the Wolves seventh overall in 2007 and traded away four seasons later, Brewer has come home in a sense a long way from his Tennessee countryside, but so much has changed since he left in February 2011.
The franchise presumably finally has transitioned successfully from its long-ago Kevin Garnett era, and Brewer himself declares himself not the same player Wolves fans once knew.
And here he is, signed to a three-year, $15 million contract for his defensive nature and bubbly energy after two seasons in Denver.
“I never dreamed of this,” Brewer said Saturday, “never thought it’d happen, to be honest.”
He left in 2011 never having proved he had the offensive game to last in the NBA, with a team that drifted rudderless for years after trading Garnett away a month after Brewer arrived in Minnesota.
“That was a tough situation there; rebuilding up from KG was tough and I kind of got caught up in that, got caught in the crossfires,” he said from his Denver home. “As soon as I got drafted, he got traded. They were trying to build stuff, had a different coach every year, and I knew when David Kahn took over, I was out of there.”
The Wolves hired Kahn as president of basketball operations in May 2009, two years after Kevin McHale drafted Brewer, who played for Randy Wittman, McHale and Kurt Rambis in his three-plus seasons with the Wolves before Kahn traded Brewer as part of a big trade that sent Carmelo Anthony from Denver to New York.
Brewer went to New York in the deal and was waived soon after by the Knicks. The Wolves got Anthony Randolph in return.
“If McHale drafted you, you were gone,” Brewer said, “unless your name was Kevin Love.”
Now Brewer is reunited with Love and most probably Nikola Pekovic, the only two players still on the roster from when Brewer was a Wolf. He will play once again with J.J. Barea, with whom he won an NBA title in 2011 with Dallas. Brewer also is good friends with newly signed Kevin Martin because the two have worked out together in Florida the past four summers with personal coach David Thorpe, and now, finally, he’ll get the chance to play with Ricky Rubio, who was drafted in 2009 but never arrived until after Brewer left.
The Mavericks signed Brewer late that 2011 season after New York waived him and he played little the rest of the way, except for an important contribution that helped Dallas win one vital playoff game.
He played two seasons in Denver for George Karl, whose fast-paced system fit Brewer, and he thrived particularly last season, playing a valuable role off the bench for a team that won 57 games before getting upset in the first round by Golden State.
The team’s general manager left for Toronto shortly after the season, and Karl was fired. Brewer searched for a new home as an unrestricted free agent and chose a homecoming for a number of reasons, which included his envisioned role, money and years on his contract and a recruiting phone call from Wolves owner Glen Taylor.
“I feel like I’m a lot better player now, I feel like it’s a good situation to come back to, shown the fans I’ve grown,” he said. “I’m really happy. I love the fans. I love the city. I looked at the situation and everything is going in the right direction. They needed a defensive wing and they needed a guy who can run with Ricky and I rang both those.
“There are a lot of good players there, and there’s a chance to win. The first time, we didn’t have a chance to win. What better than to come back and have a chance to win where I started? If we stay healthy, we’ll be in the playoffs.”