Corey Brewer feels right at home with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He spent much of this season languishing on the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers and then eventually agreed to a buyout with the rebuilding squad. Now, he’s become the starting shooting guard on a star-studded team that currently sits in the Western Conference’s No. 5 seed and is just two games back from the No. 3 seed.
With the Lakers, Brewer appeared in 57 games and averaged just 12.9 minutes per game. He scored in double figures on just four occasions. Now, in his first four games with the Thunder, he has already recorded three straight games with double-digit points.
HoopsHype caught up with Brewer to discuss why decided to join Oklahoma City, what it’s like playing with the Thunder’s stars, what he hopes to bring to his new team, how excited he is to reunite with his college coach Billy Donovan, his time with the Lakers and much more.
When you were bought out by the Lakers, a number of teams showed interest in you. What factors did you consider as you weighed your options and what ultimately made you sign with the Thunder?
Corey Brewer: I looked at my situation and considered if I’d have a chance to play, the pieces that were already in place on the team and whether I’d have a chance to compete in the playoffs. I felt like going to the Thunder would be the best situation for me because of those reasons and I get to play with old college coach Billy Donovan, who I have a great relationship with. And there are just so many talented players there; the starting line-up is great. I feel like I can really help them.
It’s pretty rare to be able to reunite with your college coach. Had you guys kept in touch over the years and what’s it like to reunite with Coach Donovan?
CB: Yeah, we definitely kept in touch. For sure. When you win multiple championships, you’re definitely going to keep in touch! It’s great, man. He hasn’t changed. He still gets on me in film sessions, just like I’m an 18-year-old kid again (laughs).
In the last three games, you’ve scored in double-digits. Typically, it takes guys some time to get acclimated with their new teammates, but you’re making an immediate impact. Why do you think you’ve been able to be so successful this quickly?
CB: I think it’s because it’s just a good group of guys. Coach has done a good job of integrating me into his system and teaching me his system. And when you have those four other guys on the court – Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams – I’m just the fifth guy who tries to find the open spots and make the easy play… It’s a lot nicer having those guys on your side (laughs). When they get going, they’re hard to stop.
Speaking of those guys, how much easier is your job when you have Russ, PG and Carmelo taking attention off of you?
CB: Yeah, for sure. Steven too, he doesn’t get enough credit for the way he sets screens, rebounds, gets offensive rebounds and everything he does. For me, with all of those guys I’m basically wide open so it’s all about making the shot and just being productive whenever I’m on the floor.
I feel like this team is better than their record indicates because they had to go through an adjustment period early on and they just have so much talent. Would you agree with that and, assuming this squad makes the postseason, how excited are you to see what this team can go in a seven-game series?
CB: Oh, for sure. That’s why I chose this team. I feel like they’re better than their record indicates. For me, I just want to fit in and help them get to another level. If we are [in the playoffs] – and we absolutely should and we plan on getting into the postseason – we should be a scary team.
When you look at your role with this team, what specific things are you trying to add?
CB: I just wanted to come in here and bring energy, a breath of fresh air and defense. I’ll do whatever I can do to help the team.
You obviously left the Lakers to join the Thunder, but what was your experience in Los Angeles like? I know being a Laker is pretty unique due to the huge fanbase, big market, nationally televised games and all of that. What was your experience with the Lakers like while you were there?
CB: It was a great experience. Being a Laker is great. It’s Los Angeles, man! Like you said, they have a crazy fanbase and everybody knows you when you’re a Laker. I had a great experience, I just didn’t get to play like I wanted to play. For me, I love basketball. I don’t really care about the city or nightlife or anything like that. I have a family, you know what I mean? For me, I just want to win and help the team win. I wanted to be in a situation where I could play, where I could help. It was great being a Laker, but sitting on the bench is not fun when you can still play.
You’re in your 11th NBA season now. You’ve obviously had a very good career, but there are so many guys who can’t stick in the league for over a decade for varying reasons. What have been the keys for you?
CB: Mainly, just staying healthy. I take care of my body so that I can stay healthy and be productive. Also, you have to figure out ways to get better. I haven’t shot the ball like I wanted to shoot it this year, but since I got here to Oklahoma City, I’ve gotten more comfortable shooting it. When you’re wide open, it’s easier to be comfortable (laughs). But that’s something I worked on, and I’m always working on my game. I focus on whatever I can do to add to my game, especially over the summer. But I’m constantly taking care of my body though. That’s the main thing.
What needs to go right for this Thunder team for you guys to go on a deep run?
CB: We just need to keep getting better as a team defensively. If we can get better defensively, we’re going to be fine. We can score with anybody in the league. It’s all about improving our defense and playing together. When you’re defending and playing together and get going at the right time, that’s how you win.
This summer, you’re doing your ninth annual basketball camp for children at Santa Fe College and all proceeds go to the University of Florida Diabetes Institute. I know this is important to you; what made you start this and decide to raise money and awareness for diabetes research?
CB: I love teaching kids and being around kids so, for me, the basketball camps are great. My father passed away from diabetes and my mother has diabetes, so I felt it was the perfect cause to raise money and awareness for and going back to the University of Florida was the perfect place to do it at. I’ve been doing it for nine years now and it gets better and better each year. I just think it’s great to give back to the youth.
I’m sorry to hear about your father, but I’m glad you’re doing this and raising money for an excellent cause. How much do you enjoy the coaching aspect of it? Could we see Coach Brewer someday?
CB: You never know! I really enjoy it. I think it’s fun. Anytime you can teach kids to play basketball and help them learn something new and different, it’s always fun.