DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Ronnie Brewer wore a look of happiness and relief as he worked out around the Berto Center on Monday afternoon.
He was excited to be back with his teammates in a place where he had had success a few years earlier under Tom Thibodeau. He was proud of the fact his professional career could continue after being waived by the Houston Rockets earlier in the season. Most of all, he was pleased he was back with the Bulls.
Like many players who have played for Thibodeau's Bulls over the last few years, he never wanted to leave Chicago.
Brewer enjoyed the camaraderie within the Bulls locker room, being a member of the "Bench Mob," and he fit into the fabric of the locker room with ease. His happy-go-lucky personality made him a popular teammate and friend to his peers. Problem for him was that he struggled in the 2011-2012 season down the stretch and fell out of Thibodeau's rotation. After the season, he landed with the New York Knicks and had some success before falling out of the rotation there. Then he was traded to Oklahoma City and rarely played there.
He started this season in Houston but couldn't find a regular spot in the rotation.
All those trials and tribulations made Monday's announcement even sweeter. From a broader perspective, it also reinforces just how strong the Bulls' culture has become under Thibodeau and the front office. Executives Gar Forman and John Paxson identify talented players who can handle Thibodeau's aggressive style and then he molds them into a winner.
It is an impressive feat that the trio, along with Thibodeau's assistant coaches, have accomplished over the past four years. They have created the type of winning culture in which players thrive. Thibodeau has always referred to the San Antonio Spurs as being the "gold standard" of the NBA, a team whose players know their roles and does their job on a regular basis. Slowly but surely, the Bulls have created a Spurs-like model.
While they may not have the type of Hall of Fame talent -- or recent championships -- that the Spurs possess, they do have the type of culture that has put San Antonio on an elite level for the past 15 years. Brewer's signing is the latest example of that. He was signed in large part because he knows exactly what is expected of him, and he plays the type of defense that Thibodeau expects.
"I think it's a big plus," Thibodeau said. "He has the characteristics that we look for -- high character, smart, and he plays for the team. It's good insurance to have."
It's good insurance for players such as Brewer as well. As long as they keep themselves in solid shape, they know they'll always have a shot to get back on Thibodeau's roster. It's the reason a veteran such as Mike James has had several stints with the Bulls in the past few years. It's not easy to earn Thibodeau's trust, but once a player does, they know they're always going to get an extra look from the demanding coach.
Thibodeau has built up a locker room based on accountability over the past four years, and his players respect him for that. That's why it didn't surprise Brewer that teammates such as Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler have improved since the last time he was around them on a day-to-day basis.
"That's part of the league and that speaks wonders of this organization," Brewer said. "They put the work in to get better day in and day out, and Thibs holds his coaches accountable and the coaches hold the players accountable. And you can tell those guys have been working on their game, and they're getting better and it shows on the court."
What also shows is that the togetherness and loyalty that Thibodeau breeds in his locker room never really fades away after players leave Chicago. It's why players still keep in touch and still joke around with each other even after they start playing for different teams. For an example, check out the Twitter/Instagram back and forth between Rip Hamilton, Nate Robinson and Noah during Saturday night's Final Four. Playing in the NBA is one thing, but playing -- and thriving -- on a Thibodeau team is another.
The players know how much hard work Thibodeau expects from them, and generally they look back on their team fondly when they have to leave. That hard work brings them closer together because they know it's not something they always sees throughout the NBA.
Brewer has been missing that feeling for the last two years, and that's why he so happy to get it back on Monday.