And the Crowd Would Chant His Name
Brett Brown’s hunch to give Corey Brewer Jimmy Butler’s spot in the starting line-up?
A pretty good one, it turned out.
Despite Brewer having been with the 76ers less than a week, Brown felt comfortable tapping the veteran to fill in for Butler (wrist), a four-time all-league defender, even if it meant that Brewer would spend a good portion of Monday’s game on James Harden.
Not only did the 32-year old help keep the 2018 MVP in check (for as much as one team realistically could), he brought plenty more to the table as well.
In just his second NBA outing since last April, Brewer finished with 11 points (5-10 fg), three rebounds, two steals, two blocks, and a plus-17 rating in the Sixers’ 121-93 victory.
Beyond that, and arguably most important, he competed with a boatload of energy, giving his new squad a major boost.
“I’m just being me,” said Brewer. “What I do is play hard, I bring energy, and I do whatever it takes to win games.”
That mindset manifested itself in the form of an aggressive defensive approach against Harden. Throughout the evening, the two former teammates (Brewer spent parts of three seasons in Houston, from 2014 - 2017) mixed it up pretty good.
Brewer’s strategy was twofold - stay in front of Harden, and force him to shoot over the top of the Sixers’ defense.
“If he’s not getting his teammates involved, then we have a chance to win. That’s what happened tonight.”
Harden went for 37 points on 12 for 26 shooting, 6 for 13 from the perimeter, and 7 for 8 from the foul line. His three assists equaled his second-lowest total of the year.
For Brewer, Monday certainly marked a noteworthy twist to the start of his 12th season, which officially began January 15th when he inked a 10-day deal with the Sixers.
Brown felt starting Brewer against Houston made too much sense - Brewer is a veteran, has been in plenty of big games, and has shown, in limited time with the Sixers, to be a high-character guy.
Furthermore, throwing Brewer out there would keep the Sixers rotation intact, for the most part.
Brown told Brewer he’d be starting about three hours before tip-off.
“It reminded me almost of my previous Sixers days,” Brown said, referring to his earliest seasons with the club, when new players would come and go with regularity.
“You say, ‘Welcome to the team, you have James Harden, you’re starting tonight.’ My background here has helped me prepare that speech.”
It didn’t take long for Brewer to prove Brown’s gut right. The 2007 no. 7 pick scored the first field goal of the game - an easy transition lay-up made possible because Brewer ran the floor in an all out sprint.
Later, after successfully contesting a Harden three with seconds remaining in the first half, Brewer was again rewarded for his hustle, this time jamming home a fastbreak opportunity set in motion by Ben Simmons.
“I was happy, I get to play basketball,” said Brewer. “I’ve been sitting at home playing with my kid, playing superheros everyday. I was really happy to get to play basketball. I’m a competitor. I love when I get to have a match up like James Harden. It was great, so let’s go.”
Following Brewer’s dunk at the end of the second quarter, he and Harden got entangled on Houston’s ensuing possession. Harden was called for his third personal foul, prompting the sold-out crowd at The Center to chant multiple rounds of, “CORE-EE BREW-ER!”
And the crowd would chant his name.
— brianseltzer (@brianseltzer) January 22, 2019
“Isn’t that what life’s all about?,” Brown said during his post-game press conference. “You get an opportunity and you hope to deliver. He did deliver.
“I feel that what he did was unique. It was special. He’s good people, and I’m thrilled he had the opportunity and to live it like he did.”