- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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But thanks in large part to a hamstring injury that continued to bother him throughout training camp, Brewer had to watch as Keith Bogans was inserted into the starting lineup. After getting completely healthy and learning in Tom Thibodeau's system for a year, Brewer is looking forward to proving himself and earning the starting two-guard spot for the Bulls when the NBA lockout ends.
"If there's a competition, there's always a shot," Brewer said Friday morning during a phone conversation from his offseason home of Fayetteville, Ark. "And last year, I couldn't compete for that spot in training camp because obviously I had a tweaked hamstring, and I couldn't go out there and play. Not to take anything away from Keith, I think he did a good job in training camp, he played really hard, he did a great job in the season [with] the time that he had.
"I can't really downplay him and what he did for this team because he did a lot. Last year, I had to do what I had to do when my name was called. Now, I feel more confident because I'm healthy, I'm in better shape, and I can actually compete for the spot in training camp. So I'm looking forward to that competition and looking forward to helping my team out wherever I'm needed."
As much as Brewer would like to start, he sounds as ready as ever to make an impact in any area that he can.
"Honestly, I just want to play basketball," he said. "If it's the starting two, or if it's the sixth man. Whatever Thibs wants me to do, I've always been that type of player my whole career. I'm going to play as hard as I possibly can and prepare myself where there's going to be a competition to be the starting two. But, if that's not what fits the team, and I need to be the spark off the bench, then I'm willing to do that. But I'm going to do everything I can to prepare myself to be the starting two."
Brewer has heard the critics who say the Bulls' biggest need after the lockout ends is to upgrade at the shooting guard position, but the 26-year-old is confident the team has the pieces in place to win.
"You hear a lot of things about not having enough pieces to help Derrick. Well, we won 62 games," he said. "That doesn't come easy and that doesn't come to a team that's not good. We had a lot of adversity, a lot of injuries, but we still worked through it, played through it, and found a way to win. In those conference finals [against Miami] we didn't find a way to win, we didn't execute our offense or our defense, and that's why we came up a little short."
Brewer is trying to do his part to change that. He's spent most of the summer in the gym working on his shot and his conditioning after getting some advice after the season ended from Thibodeau.
"He basically said we all have to do better, including himself," Brewer said. "Individually, and our team, because [winning] a championship, which was our goal to start the season, I think that was everybody's goal. But as the season progressed, it became a reality that we had a shot. [Thibodeau] basically said, you've got to prepare yourself to not only get back to where we were, but to push harder and get it to the next level, which was the Finals and win it.
"Basically [the message was] improve your jump shot. Get in better shape, get stronger and do everything you usually do in the offseason. And I took that to heart. I want to be a better post-up player and a better shooter so [take away] pressure from D. Rose or Booz [Carlos Boozer] or Luol [Deng] or Joakim [Noah] or Taj [Gibson] or Kyle [Korver] whenever they're in the game so you just want to do your part and be ready for when your name is called."
Like other NBA players and fans, Brewer isn't sure when he will get the chance to play again.
"Honestly, I wish they'd have a meeting [Saturday] and figure it all out," he said. "And they'd be like, 'Hey, we're going to try and get the [season] up and running.' You've got to stay optimistic like that. Whenever you lose faith, that's when everything goes to heck. You've got to stay prepared. You've got to prepare your body. You've got to prepare your mind and whenever the timing's right and the deal's right, it will be done and we can bring great basketball back to the fans all over this world."
As for the ESPN.com reportfrom Thursday night that said over 50 players have discussed the possibility of decertifying from the union, count Brewer among the players who would like to see the union stay together.
"I'd rather stay together and back the people who backed us for this long," he said. "But at the same time, you want to play basketball. So whatever way they go, [which] allows us to get on the court, I'm all for it. But I'd rather stay [with] the union that's backed me my whole career. I'd rather stay together and stay united."
Brewer acknowledged that he would consider playing in Europe if the lockout continues to drag, but his first priority will be to prepare for the NBA season. He has stayed in touch with many of his teammates and expects the group to get together at some point soon. Over the past few months, several Bulls mentioned plans to work out together on the West Coast. While Brewer notes that is still an option, he also realizes the best course of an action would be to meet up with one another as soon as the lockout ends.
"We're still talking about [practicing together], but at the same time now, with the lockout lingering, I think guys are trying to find and any and every possible way to try and find a way of making a living," he said. "Some people go to exhibition games to stay in shape. Some guys work out individually. Some guys do different things. But at the end of the day, when it gets to closer to when they go back negotiating and it's time to [lift] the lockout, we're going to have to get together as a team so we can all be on the same page.
"All have that team chemistry that everybody loved last year, that made us excel to the team that we were. If it's out West, if it's in Chicago, we got to get on the same page to work something out. If it's for a few days, for a week, but it's got to be done."
Brewer is passing the time by helping out when he can. He'll be back in Chicago on Sunday to participate in SkyRise 2011, the world's tallest indoor stair climb, taking place in the country's largest building, the Willis Tower. Brewer is looking forward to the climb, which benefits the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
"I'm just praying that I can get through it," he said with a laugh. "I don't know how much running I'm going to be doing, maybe a good paced walk."
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