Alex Kennedy was joined by 12-year NBA veteran Corey Brewer on The HoopsHype Podcast. He discussed his childhood, his two titles as a Florida Gator, his draft-night experience, his 51-point game in 2014, teammate superlatives (such as the “best leader” he played with, the “hardest worker” and so on), his 2011 championship with the Dallas Mavericks, his current free agency and more. Listen above or read the transcribed Q&A below.
Growing up, you would get up really early and work with your father in the tobacco fields and help with his trash-collection job. Do you think that helped shape your work ethic?
Corey Brewer: Oh, definitely, for sure. Getting up early and having to go to the field when it’s really hot outside in Tennessee in the summer, I think that makes you appreciate things a lot more. I used to go to the tobacco field and I had to set the tobacco, I had to cut it, I had to chop it out, I had to top it, I had to strip it, I had to put it in a barn, I had to drive the tractor, I had to plow the fields… I pretty much did everything there was to do in a tobacco field. My dad also had a trash route, so I had to go pick up other people’s trash and that really wasn’t fun. (laughs) But that was the job I had to do; it was his job. It was hard work.
How old were you when you started helping?
CB: Ever since I can remember. I remember being 4 years old and going to the field with my dad. I just always went to the field ever since I was a little kid, so I didn’t know anything different.
You were at the University of Florida for three years and you won two national championships. You played with Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Mo Speights among others. What was it like to be part of those dominant Gators squads?
CB: It was amazing. College was amazing. Just going to the University of Florida and being able to play with the guys that played with – Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey, Marreese Speights, Chris Richard, Walter Hodge – we had a lot of good players. Just to be there and have a chance to win, that’s what it’s all about, and we got to win two national championships. There’s no place better, no other place to go, than the University of Florida.
The Gators also won the college football national championship in 2006 and 2008, led by Tim Tebow. When Mo Speights was on the podcast, he talked about how much fun it was to be a Gator and be on campus at that time. How much fun was that?
CB: It was amazing. It was so much fun, Mo was right. It was so much fun, just being on campus and just winning. The football team was winning, the basketball team was winning, our gymnastics team was good, our softball team was good… Everybody was good, so it was fun. When everybody’s winning, everybody’s happy. When you’re winning like that, the whole school is happy, so it was great!
These days, we see many players who are one-and-done in college. You, Noah and Horford could’ve left school after the 2005-06 season as first-round picks, but you decided to stay and defend your title. What went into that decision and how did three years of college help you?
CB: It helped me a lot, I think. It helped me mature, just being under Coach [Billy] Donovan for an extra year, learning the game and getting better. But it was a tough decision. The NBA is unbelievable; it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for us to be able to get drafted. Everybody thought that we should have left, but I think our friendship and just being able to be with each other for another year was the reason we went back.
Now, many players enter the NBA after just one year in college. Do you think some players would benefit from staying in college longer?
CB: I think it just depends on everybody’s situation. I feel like if they have a good support system with them, it’s okay for young guys to go to the league. It’s the guys who don’t have a good support system who are overwhelmed once they get in the league and they don’t understand that it’s a different world and they don’t know how to help themselves or they don’t have the right tools to help them be the best player they can be. But I think if kids can go to college, they should. I would always advise kids to go to college because there are a lot of great college coaches and you’re able to mature and you’re able to be out on your own.
In the 2007 draft, Horford went No. 3, you went No. 7 and Noah went No. 9. That must have been so exciting. What are your favorite memories from your draft night?
CB: Just being with those guys! Joakim and Al, they were in the green room with me. When you’re in the green room, it’s like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You’re sitting there, you don’t know what to expect, there’s all of these people and your name is about to get called. You’re about to be in the NBA! Just being with those guys and going through the process with them, it was so much fun.
Back in 2014, you had 51 points and 6 steals in a win against the Houston Rockets. Only three other NBA players have had a 50-point, 6-steal game (Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and Rick Barry). Walk me through that night and how you were feeling.
CB: I was feeling pretty good! (laughs) When I got to the arena, my man Kevin Martin said he wasn’t gonna be playing and then Kevin Love wasn’t gonna play either. So I was like, “Oh man, that’s a lot of scoring right there. There’s gonna be some opportunities to go out here and get some shots up.” Once the game started, I made my first three or four shots and then I felt like I couldn’t miss after that. It was just so much fun. I got a guy like Ricky Rubio just outletting the ball to me and getting me easy lay-ups, JJ Barea kept telling me to go [score] and Dante Cunningham was really happy. They were all behind me, my teammates. All of my teammates were great that night.
You’ve played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings. When you look back, which season was the most fun for you?
CB: Man, I had a lot of fun seasons… The year we went to the Western Conference Finals when I was in Houston was a lot of fun. We played really well. I think we ran into Golden State in the Western Conference Finals, but we had some injuries; Patrick Beverley wasn’t playing and [Donatas Motiejunas] got hurt. But that was a fun year, just to get all the way to the Western Conference Finals. And the way we came back to beat the Clippers, that was a lot of fun.
Of all the teams that you’ve played on, which team was the closest or had the best chemistry?
CB: When I played in Denver, that team was real close. We had a lot of chemistry. I think that was another one of my funnest years, when I was in Denver. That’s the year that we were the three seed and I think we won, like, 40 games at home. We were really close. I think we ran into Golden State again! I think Golden State beats me every year in the playoffs. (laughs) I think that was the first year they became Golden State. We got beat by those guys and [Danilo] Gallinari and [Kenneth] Faried got hurt. But that was a good year. That team was really close.
Was it difficult playing for eight teams in 12 years? I mean, you were constantly adjusting to new coaches, new teammates, new cities and so on. Was bouncing around from team to team difficult for you?
CB: It was difficult but, for me, I just love basketball. The way I look at it, I get the opportunity to play basketball, so it doesn’t matter where I’m playing as long as I get to play. And I’m playing in the NBA, which is the best job in the world. So I took it as, “Hey, it’s an opportunity to see different cities and different organizations,” and I just tried to learn something everywhere I went.
You played with so many great players over the years, so I want to hit you with some superlatives and you choose a teammate or two who fits that description and explain why. Sound good?
CB: All good, let’s go.
Who was the best leader that you played with?
CB: The best leader? Man… I’d say Jason Kidd. He was great, just being out there the year we won the championship, the way he was leading, the way he got the ball to Dirk [Nowitzki] and Jason Terry and all of us, he made everybody happy. He was like another coach on the floor.
Who was the hardest worker?
CB: Man, I’ve played with a lot of great players and they’re all hard workers. James Harden is one of the hardest-working guys I played with, for sure. And I don’t think [people realize that]. People think he gets all these calls and stuff, but he’s talented and the way he scores and the way he works on his game, his step-backs and all of that stuff, he works hard on all that. And Dirk, man. Dirk was always out there perfecting his craft – the one-leg stuff, the fadeaways… He really worked on his game. Those two guys are definitely at the top.
Who was the best trash-talker?
CB: Shawn Marion is a pretty good trash talker. (laughs) His trash-talk was good. Jason Terry was really good. Yeah, those two guys for that.
Who was the smartest teammate?
CB: Man, I played with a lot of smart guys. Off the top of my head, I have to go with Jason Kidd, for sure. Ricky Rubio was really smart and the way he would make certain passes was amazing; he was seeing stuff before it happened. And I have to go James Harden again. He knew how to score and he could figure out [defenses].
Who was the best guy to party with?
CB: Best guy to party with? I had a lot of great teammates… James [Harden] is fun, definitely. And Jason Terry, for sure.
I loved that Mavs team. I had Shawn Marion on the podcast recently and we talked about how you guys were viewed as big underdogs in the 2011 NBA Finals. But even though everyone was doubting you guys and picking the Miami Heat to win, you guys seemed to know that you’d win it all.
CB: Yeah, we just had that feeling. You know when you’re playing your best basketball and you just feel like you’ll win? I think that’s the same way we felt the year that we won our first national championship [at Florida]. We won and nobody gave us a chance; we were ranked, like, 75th in the beginning of the year. But I feel like when you just hit a groove, you just feel like you can beat anybody and that’s the same feeling we had when I was on that Dallas team. I felt like those guys had that mentality. Shawn [Marion] and DeShawn Stevenson both thought they could guard LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Dirk knew what he could do. He was Dirk, man! And J-Kidd was just the great leader that he is. We had Jason Terry coming off the bench and he could just score [at will]. And then JJ Barea played out of his mind; he was amazing and you gotta give him a lot of credit for the way he played. Tyson Chandler was our big anchor on defense. Our bench was great too with Peja Stojakovic – one of the best shooters to ever play in the NBA – and big Brendan Haywood coming in at center. We just had a really good team and I think everybody believed.
To this day, I think that squad is underrated.
CB: Oh, for sure. It’s definitely underrated, man. It was a great team and I think if guys could’ve come back for another year, we had another chance to make a run at a championship again. But, yeah, it was a really good team.
Since 2007, when you entered the NBA, the league has evolved a lot. There’s more three-point shooting, there’s a bigger emphasis on versatility and positionless basketball, there’s a ton of switching on defense and things like that. How much has the game changed from when you entered the NBA to now?
CB: It’s changed a lot. It’s like a whole 180, I guess you could say. When I first came into the league, you had guys like Yao and Shaq who were still in the league; you had dominant forces and you’d just throw it to them on the block. I played with Al Jefferson during my rookie year and he could really score, so we went in the post a lot. We threw him the ball for most of the game. And then, at the end of my career, now, it’s really not a post game. (laughs) It’s all about shooting threes, playing fast and, like you said, positionless basketball, so it’s changed a lot.
I remember when I got to Denver in 2011-12, the way that George Karl wanted us to play was basically the same. We played Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler at the four a lot and they were spacers. It created so much space and we shot a lot of threes and played really fast. So, I knew the game was gonna go in a different direction. And that year in the playoffs, we played against Golden State. I think David Lee got hurt, so Draymond Green had to play and the way he was just playing point forward, you kind of knew where the game was going.
You’re currently a free agent and you want to continue playing. Have you received interest from any teams throughout this season?
CB: Yeah, we had some talks with a few teams, but nothing really happened. My agent is still working on it, so we’ll see. I feel like I can still help a team and I feel like I have a few good years left. But you never know, man. It’s a lot of young guys now. But we’ll see what happens.
I feel like you can help a team on and off the court. In addition to your play, you can help a team as a strong veteran presence.
CB: For sure. I can point out some things that can help the young guys. There are a lot of little things in basketball that guys really need help with. They only see the big picture, they don’t see the little things.
How much basketball did you watch this season?
CB: I watched a lot. I love basketball and since I’m hoping to have a chance to play, I have to keep watching so I know what’s going on. It was a lot of good basketball being played. The Milwaukee Bucks looked really good, and the Lakers were playing great basketball. It was a lot of good basketball.
How are you staying ready and in shape during this time?
CB: I’ve just been working out at my house, just running, doing pool workouts, getting on the elliptical, doing ball-handling outside and all the little things that I can do just to stay ready.
I recently did an article about how players are staying in shape at home and one NBA coach suggested that veterans may have an advantage during this break since they know all of the drills and have experience keeping their body in shape whereas young players rely on their trainers and coaches more. Do you agree that veterans will have an easier time staying in shape during this time?
CB: Yeah, for sure. Just because veteran guys, we’ve been around, we know what to expect, we know what our body needs and we know what we have to do to keep our game sharp. The young guys are used to having their trainers always telling them what to do, so it’s a little harder for them.
In the past, you’ve said that you want to get into coaching when your playing days are over. I know you have some interest in broadcasting too. What do you want to pursue when you’re done playing?
CB: Both of those things. I really like broadcasting and I feel like I know the game, I can talk about the game and I can see stuff that normal people probably don’t see out there on the court. Also, coaching, it goes hand-in-hand. Because I can see the little things, I can help young guys and develop guys. Sometimes, a guy is a borderline superstar and they just need a little advice, a little help that can really push them over the edge.
Do you think having so many different coaches and teammates throughout your career will help you as a coach or as a broadcaster?
CB: Oh, for sure. I’ve had so many teammates, so I really know the players. In addition to that, I know the different systems because I played for a lot of great coaches. I played for Hall of Fame coaches like George Karl, Rick Carlisle, Rick Adelman, Kevin McHale… With the knowledge that they bring, I feel like I took something from each of those coaches.
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