Corey Brewer a changed man this time around with Wolves

MANKATO, Minn. — Brewer’s Blend is back on the shelves.

Only this time, the Timberwolves say, it comes in decaf.

The once-unruly small forward with the local line of coffee products named after him has returned to the team that drafted him, claiming he’s a changed player who’s now fully cognizant of his strengths and weaknesses.

Through two days of training camp, he’s apparently backed it up.

“He’ll still be the old Corey every once in a while, but I like Corey 2.0,” said forward Kevin Love, who played with Brewer in Minnesota from 2008-11. “You can tell he’s definitely played on some good teams since he’s been here. Just a few more years’ experience, a few thousand more hours of playing basketball, he’s just been getting a lot better.”

It’s more important than ever Brewer exhibit the composure he gained during a 2011 championship run with Dallas and two seasons under taskmaster coach George Karl in Denver. With fellow three-man Chase Budinger out indefinitely, Brewer’s currently first in line to start on the wing Oct. 30 against Orlando.

So far, so good, his new coach said.

“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” Rick Adelman said. “He struggles from the outside, but just watching him, he knows his strengths. He knows where he should go, and that’s a good thing.”

That wasn’t the case during Brewer’s three years and some change in Minneapolis after the Timberwolves drafted him seventh overall in 2007. He admits feeling lost in coach Kurt Rambis’ triangle offense — even while starting 82 games scoring a career-high 13 points per game in 2009-10 — and the post-centric schemes of Randy Wittman before him.

Brewer didn’t exercise much control, and he didn’t live up to the expectations associated with his draft position. So the Timberwolves traded him away during the 2011 campaign.

He wound up in Dallas and played a minimal role in the Mavericks’ NBA title run that spring. Watching and talking to guard Jason Terry was especially beneficial, Brewer said, and his knowledge base only expanded while providing a spark off the bench for Karl the past two seasons.

“My decision-making’s got a lot better,” Brewer said after training-camp practice Wednesday at Minnesota State’s Bresnan Arena. “When you first come into the league, you don’t know what to expect, kind of make bad decisions. But I feel like I know what to expect, and I just have to be myself now.”

Six NBA seasons have given him a distinct, introspective view: a great transition player who’s equally effective on defense and can hit corner 3s at an impressive rate.

He’ll be relied upon to do all three during his second stint in Minnesota.

Long, athletic and fast in the open floor, Brewer’s the perfect receptor for a Ricky Rubio-orchestrated fast break. He’s used to leaking out in transition, then racing the other way and finishing.

Never was that more evident than last year, when he scored 12.1 points per game while averaging 24.4 minutes a contest.

Additionally, Brewer’s ability to knock down corner 3s fits perfectly in Adelman’s offense. A 29.8-percent career 3-point shooter, he shot 41.1 percent from the left corner alone last year.

While scrimmaging Wednesday in Mankato, he nailed several 3s from the corners, often after simply setting up camp there and waiting for the ball to cycle his direction.

“I like coach’s offense,” Brewer said Wednesday. “It’s a lot of cutting and moving, which is what I basically do, and I get a lot of corner 3s. I’ve just got to make shots.”

He’s even more integral at the opposite end. By far the most established individual defender on a team full of scorers, he’ll be asked to guard teams’ No. 1 offensive threats.

Bring it, Brewer said at the team’s media day Monday.

“I knew my role from Day 1 when I signed,” Brewer said. “I’ve got to guard the best player every night. I want to be a defender, so it’s going to be proven this year if I can defend or not.”

But with that desire comes recognition he can’t leave his teammates out to dry. Staying home will be just as important as locking down.

If he gets beat one-on-one, his team likely gets beat.

“I won’t be as aggressive as I usually am,” Brewer said, “just because I know what’s behind me.”

That suggests awareness that wasn’t present during the Corey 1.0 days. The 6-foot-9, 188-pound swingman even has a new jersey number this time around — something he hopes is further evidence of his evolution.

No. 22 has been replaced with “lucky No. 13” since the Dallas trade.

“I was having so much bad luck in my career, I just figured 13,” Brewer said with that trademark, Cheshire-like grin of his. “Something had to change.”

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