Brewer up to challenge of filling in for Deng

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
1:19
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Ronnie Brewer always wanted to start for the Chicago Bulls.

Ready to replace the injured Luol Deng in the starting lineup when the Bulls play the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, Brewer just wants to contribute wherever he can.

"[Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] prepares you by telling you to come in with the early group and learn every position," Brewer said after Wednesday afternoon's shootaround. "He tried to throw me in the point guard position a few times. [Richard Hamilton's] been out a few times, and now Lu's out. So you got to be ready whenever your name is called. That's what I've been trying to do all season long."

[+] EnlargeRonnie Brewer
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesRonnie Brewer has averaged 8.0 points and 3.3 rebounds in his 11 starts at shooting guard and small forward this season.
That's why Thibodeau loves Brewer's game so much. Brewer can produce on both ends of the floor, and with his improved range, he can be an even bigger asset for the Bulls than he was last season. But Brewer's flexibility is also a reason Thibodeau's doesn't want to anoint him as the starter as Deng recovers from a torn ligament in his left wrist.

"We'll see," Thibodeau said. "We'll see how it goes. What Ronnie has shown is -- whether he's starting for Rip or starting for Luol, he's started a number of games in this league -- that he can handle starting. He handles coming off the bench. I thought last year him coming off the bench was a great asset. I value greatly what a guy like that can bring coming off the bench. In some ways, I do miss what he brings coming off the bench. But I also like what he does as a starter, so it's a tribute to him and his versatility."

As usual, the easy-going Brewer is willing to help wherever Thibodeau needs him. He knows that it is going to be difficult for the Bulls to make up for the loss of Deng, but he also understands that he has another chance to prove his value.

"It's going to be tough," Brewer said. "Whenever you have a guy of Lu's caliber out, he's one of our leaders vocally and by his play, so he's definitely going to be missed. A lot of different guys are going to have to bring something different if it's on offense, defense, assists. He does a lot of things for this team so somebody's going to have to step up."

Brewer has grown accustomed to that role during his brief tenure with the Bulls. He has started 11 games this season -- including 10 for Hamilton, who was out with a groin injury. But now Brewer will take over at small forward rather than shooting guard. Will it be that much of a difference?

"It's fairly the same position," he said. "Just a little bit bigger guys. Sometimes the twos start lower, the threes start higher and vice versa. Working with Thibs, I've been able to learn the plays at both the positions. It's not going to be any easier playing the three than it is the two. There's a high caliber of players you're going to face every night so you've got to come up and be ready for the test."

Gibson getting better: Taj Gibson participated in the Bulls shootaround on Wednesday as he recovers from a high ankle sprain. He took some shots and appeared to be walking without a noticeable limp as he left the floor. He is still shooting for this weekend as a possible return.

"He's getting there," Thibodeau said. "He's doing a little bit more each day. He said he's feeling better. The swelling is down."

But Thibodeau wouldn't rule him out of Wednesday's game.

"Unlikely," Thibodeau said. "There's always a chance. But unlikely."

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
21.9 3.3 1.6 39.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.7
AssistsD. Rose 5.1
StealsJ. Butler 1.6
BlocksP. Gasol 2.0