Saturday, March 05, 2011

Brewer heads list of buyout bargains

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - There are conventional ways to build a championship in every sport. Good general managers can use trades, free agency and the draft to construct the core of a title contender.

In the NBA, a new avenue has surfaced in recent years -- the buyouts of veteran players.

Obviously when an average player that is still at least somewhat well- regarded around the league gets his freedom in late February, he isn't looking to play for the Cavs, Wolves or Wizards. For most, it's a second chance and the ability to latch onto a playoff contender. For the teams themselves, it's the ability to rent experience for a couple of months and fortify a rotation for the postseason.

Corey Brewer, who was languishing with those aforementioned Minnesota Timberwolves until being shipped to New York in the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster, heads my list of buyout bargains this season.

You would think the Knicks, a playoff-bound team that gutted a lot of its depth in order to acquire 'Melo, would have at least taken a long, hard look at Brewer, a very interesting player thanks to his length and defensive versatility.

Instead, the Florida product negotiated a buyout from New York and the big boys quickly came sniffing. In fact the leaders in each conference, San Antonio and Boston, were both interested in inking Brewer but the lanky 6- foot-9 forward chose Dallas, probably a prudent decision since the Mavs gave him a multi-year deal and still have minutes for the taking since the season- ending injury to Caron Butler.

"You always want to be a winner," Brewer told ESPN Dallas. "Once you taste winning, you want to keep winning. I haven't won since I got in the NBA. I'm happy to be on a winner."

Brewer, who turns 25 on Saturday, has the athleticism and defensive chops to help Rick Carlisle in a landscape with ominous roadblocks like the Spurs and the two-time defending champion Lakers.

"If we get a defensive situation where he can help us, we'll put him in there," Carlisle said.

Miami is another title contender that made a bold move, jettisoning point guard Carlos Arroyo to make room for former Atlanta quarterback Mike Bibby, who was bought out by the Wizards after being acquired in a trade deadline deal for Kirk Hinrich.

With John Wall around, Bibby wasn't needed in D.C. but will be welcomed in South Beach. He is certainly not the player he once was in Sacramento and has really regressed on the defensive end but Bibby brings the type of steadiness to the floor that Arroyo and Mario Chalmers simply can not.

The Heat obviously have enough offensive talent to make a lot of noise in the postseason but landing a veteran like Bibby that can get the ball to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the spots they desire certainly makes Miami a tougher out than they were a week ago.

"I think Mike Bibby does add savvy and he's not afraid of the big moment," TNT analyst Kenny Smith said. "So when you've got a guy who's created some big moments by himself and you throw him into the mix, it just adds another piece."

Troy Murphy has never appeared in a playoff game in 10 NBA seasons but that didn't stop the Heat and Boston Celtics from fighting over the 6-foot-11 power forward that can make a difference on the boards and stretch a defense with his ability to knock down the jumper all the way out to the three-point line.

Murphy never fit in with New Jersey and was essentially sent home before being shipped to Golden State, his original NBA team, which quickly bought him out.

Celtics basketball chief Danny Ainge has been the best at the buy out game in the past, bringing in players like Sam Cassell in 2008, Stephon Marbury in 2009 and Michael Finley in 2010. Ainge cleared the bottom of his roster to obtain final flexibility once the buyouts started and was able to snare Murphy, a plus shooter with the length and the versatility rarely found in big men.

"We were honest with him," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after signing Murphy. "There's minutes, but there's only earnable minutes. There's nothing given, but we can use him."

In the Midwest, Chicago looks like a title contender at every position except two guard where pedestrian players like Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans have been holding down the fort. Rasual Butler, who was bought out by the Clippers, certainly isn't the answer offensively but he has the size to help on the defensive end and can be an effective standstill jump shooter on the opposite side of a double team

The Warriors, meanwhile, aren't a playoff contender and are six games south of Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot out West but were able to nab a contributor of their own in Al Thornton.

Caught in a log jam at small forward in the nation's capital that included Rashard Lewis, Josh Howard and Maurice Evans, Thornton was bought out with one year and $2.8 million left on his current contract. The 27-year-old Florida State product, a former first-round draft pick by the Clippers in 2007, often flashed a silky smooth mid-range jumper in LA and still has a chance to play a meaningful role on a successful NBA club in the future.

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