Former Gators losing in Minnesota
Published: Friday, January 11, 2008 at 11:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 11, 2008 at 11:50 p.m.
MINNEAPOLIS — Corey Brewer seemed a little shell-shocked in late November after his Minnesota Timberwolves blew a 21-point lead to lose at home to the Atlanta Hawks.
The rookie swingman was told that the Wolves were now 1-10, and he shook his head and looked over at fellow rookie Chris Richard, almost in disbelief.
‘‘We have 10? Already?’’ Brewer said. ‘‘Ten came around quick.’’
In the ensuing two months, the losses continue to pile up at a near record-setting pace for the rebuilding Timberwolves (5-29). Coming off back-to-back national championships at Florida, Brewer and his fellow former Gator Richard are having to deal with something they’re not used to on a basketball court — losing.
‘‘We’ve lost more games already this season than I lost in my last seven years of basketball,’’ Brewer said Thursday after practice.
The Timberwolves drafted Brewer with the seventh overall selection in the draft, then took his good buddy Richard in the second round, hoping the winning attitude they developed at Florida would carry over to a franchise in flux.
Brewer and Richard lost a total of 19 games at Florida in the previous three seasons, earning a reputation for team play, hard work and ever-present smiles.
There has been little to smile about in their first year in the pros. The Gators went 35-5 last season en route to their second straight NCAA title, but the Wolves have had three five-game losing streaks, a six-game slide and, most recently, an eight-game skid that was snapped on Tuesday with a victory over Miami.
‘‘We haven’t been winning. That’s tough for me personally,’’ Richard said. ‘‘I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get used to losing. I don’t consider myself a loser. I think once we figure out the little things and try to master the little things I think we’ll win more games.’’
Third-year veteran Rashad McCants knows how the two rookies feel. McCants won a national title at North Carolina before leaving for the NBA. He was selected 14th overall by the Timberwolves in 2005. They went an un-Tar Heel-like 33-49 in his rookie year and 32-50 in his second season.
‘‘You can’t expect that just because you won in college, you’re going to win in the NBA,’’ McCants said. ‘‘It is a big adjustment.
‘‘It’s one of the adjustments where you’re back to your rookie stage, you’re back to your freshman year, and you have to do it all over again. You have to get hazed. You have to get readjusted. You have to learn new plays. You have to adjust to a new coach. Everything is new. So the winning that you did is nonexistent to where you begin now.’’
Losing isn’t the only thing the two rookies are dealing with.
Brewer, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2007 Final Four, has struggled to find his place in the offense. He is shooting just 34 percent from the field and is averaging 5.3 points in just under 24 minutes a game this season.
‘‘I was going too fast. I wasn’t really into the flow of the offense,’’ Brewer said of his first two months on the job. ‘‘It’s a new system for me. So I was trying to learn. But I feel after 30 games, I’ve kind of figured it out now.
‘‘But it’s tough. I’m used to pressing, getting up and down. We really don’t play that fast. Now I feel like I’m getting into the flow.’’
The minutes have been much more sporadic for Richard, a 6-foot-9 banger who the Wolves knew was a bit of a project when they took him in the second round.
‘‘It’s tough. I’m starting to pick up on things. I’m starting to figure out more,’’ Richard said. ‘‘It’s completely different from college. I’m starting to learn a lot. I’m trying to learn as much as I can. I think I’ve been doing OK, but I think I can do a little bit more.’’
The two friends shared the same cell phone plan in college and live in the same downtown Minneapolis apartment complex now. They are leaning on each other during what already has been a trying season filled with things they’ve never seen before.
‘‘Me and Corey both understand it’s a new era and we’re starting from scratch,’’ Richard said. ‘‘So we’re just trying to hang in and keep fighting, motivating ourselves to get better.’’
While these young Wolves are learning how to handle losing this season, Brewer said one thing definitely can’t happen — forgetting how to win.
‘‘You just have to keep that winning attitude always because this is the first time this has really happened to us — losing,’’ Brewer said. ‘‘No one on the team wants to lose, so if everybody can keep this winning attitude, we’ll win some games. We’re going to be a good team. We just have to figure it out.’’
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