MINNEAPOLIS — Corey Brewer has become a familiar face for the often-changing Minnesota Timberwolves.
They've turned over their roster so many times since Brewer was selected in the first round in 2007 the moves are hard to keep track of. Brewer himself was traded away — and now he's back.
"I feel like I'm a lot better than three years ago when I left," Brewer said, adding: "I know what I can do and what I can't do."
The Wolves brought the slender swingman back last week on a three-year, $15 million contract. After a productive season for a playoff team in Denver, Brewer became a free agent. He considered Milwaukee and Sacramento, but when Minnesota expressed interest the decision was easy. He developed a fondness for the fans, if not the cold weather, during his first stint here. Owner Glen Taylor called, too, encouraging him to sign.
In contrast to the franchise-altering Kevin Garnett trade a month after he was drafted that started a rebuilding process that has been restarted several times since, Brewer saw legitimate potential in the group being assembled by new boss Flip Saunders. Or, in Brewer's case, reassembled.
"I felt like this team was going in the right direction. To play with Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Kevin Love, I feel like I'm going to fit right in," Brewer said.
Jump shooting will never be Brewer's forte, but his long arms and quickness make him a valuable defender on the wing. He also has the speed to keep up with Rubio on fast breaks. Brewer, who won an NBA title with Dallas in 2011 while he was away, figured out under Denver coach George Karl how to play better at a faster pace.
"That's one thing that Corey can really do," Saunders said, also noting Brewer's 38 percent rate of shooting corner 3-pointers last season.
Brewer was dealt as part of the three-team Carmelo Anthony swap to New York, and waived before he played a game there, during his fourth NBA season. Reconstructive surgery on his right knee was an early setback in his second year with the Wolves, but even after his best season with them in 2009-10 the previous leadership under David Kahn didn't include him in the blueprint for the future.
Brewer is not resentful. He was happy to return, even as much more of a role player. With Chase Budinger, rookie Shabazz Muhammad and potentially Derrick Williams all playing his small forward position, Brewer's minutes will be limited even if he's in the starting lineup.
This is the kind of depth and diversity of skills that has Saunders and everyone on his roster excited. Budinger, whose familiarity with coach Rick Adelman's system made him one of the team's top offseason priorities, even declined a richer contract offer from another team to pick the Wolves.
"If anybody knows the type of guy I am, I'm kind of a cheap type of guy. So giving up money is always tough," Budinger said. "But I knew thought that coming back to Minnesota was the right choice, the right opportunity for me. The right choice for me to grow as a player. And to make the playoffs."
That goal, as reasonable and urgent as it is for a club that hasn't been there since Saunders was the coach in 2004, has quickly given way under the new boss to a loftier aim.
"We want to do some damage. It's one thing to make the playoffs, but we want to do some damage when we get there," Brewer said.