After the Denver Nuggets sensational comeback against the hapless Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night, I tweeted out that I take back every negative thing I’ve ever said about backup shooting guard Corey Brewer. Because without Brewer’s effort on Thursday, the Nuggets don’t even come close to winning that game. And Brewer’s awful performance against the lowly Sacramento Kings on Saturday night notwithstanding, it’s time to commend Brewer for having delivered a solid season all-around.
Brewer has developed into one of those intangible, off-the-bench, “glue” guys that help make decent playoff teams become legitimate conference finals contenders. Always in motion, Brewer wreaks havoc defensively with timely steals, hands-in-the-face defense and disruption of opposing teams’ passing lanes. And on top of that, Brewer has made an assortment of clutch three-point shots this season, giving the Nuggets opportunities to win games that they otherwise would have no shot at winning.
And while you might credit Brewer’s improvement to being part of the 2010-11 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks, I credit Brewer’s resurgence to his current head coach – George Karl. (Brewer played all of about 21 minutes during the Mavericks 2011 playoff run and was DNP-CD’d from Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals all the way through the entire NBA Finals … hence why the Mavericks didn’t think twice about trading Brewer to Denver – along with Rudy Fernandez – for a second round pick in 2011.) And as Nuggets fan should know well by now, Karl has done this before. Many times before.
Head coaches get judged in a lot of ways, most notably based on their playoff record (where Karl’s success rate doesn’t come close to his remarkable regular season success rate). But sometimes it’s important to look at the not-so-noticeable things that a coach does, and Brewer seems to be the latest of many admirable reclamation projects for Karl as the Nuggets head coach.
For whatever reason, historically the Nuggets haven’t been blessed with too many able shooting guards over the years. Even lauded two-guards who once donned a Nuggets jersey – like T.R. Dunn and Bryant Stith – couldn’t shoot particularly well from the outside. Instead, the Nuggets seem to get other teams castaways at the two-guard position: Be it throw-ins in trades (like Brewer) or picked up off the free agency scrap heap. Regardless of how they’ve gotten to Denver, Karl has masterfully salvaged a number of would-be disappointing two guards – evident by both how well they’ve performed in Denver and by how poorly they performed pre- and post-Denver.
Karl’s first reclamation project as Nuggets head coach was shooting guard Greg Buckner. Buckner bounced around from Dallas to Philadelphia before landing in Denver as an afterthought free agent in 2004 on a contract paying less than $900,000. As a Nugget for two seasons, Buckner started in 68 games, played about 22 minutes per game (a career high) and rewarded Karl’s trust by posting career highs in field goal percentage, points per game (PPG), and steals per game (spg) and helping the Nuggets compete in the playoffs twice. After signing back with Dallas in 2006 as a free agent, Buckner was out of the league altogether in just three seasons at the age of 32.
Read the full article here.