Bulls brace for Knicks, reunion with Brewer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The mere mention of Ronnie Brewer's name has the same effect on all of his old teammates.

They all smile.

The Bulls may not be smiling during Saturday night's game against the New York Knicks -- they're fourth game in five nights, this one against the Eastern Conference leaders who spent Friday night in Chicago -- but they are all looking forward to being around their former teammate.

"It's just going to be good to see him," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "We've been talking the whole season. He's been playing great for them, starting, obviously doing the same thing he always does, trying to do a good job locking up the other (team's) best perimeter player. I'm sure he'll be on Lu (Luol Deng) a lot (Saturday), but (he's) having a great season. I look forward to seeing my brother, man."

So does Taj Gibson. The Bulls forward knows Brewer is enjoying his time in New York City and is looking forward to the reunion.

"We're real close," Gibson said. "That was my guy. That was one of the guys I hung out with a lot on this team, so I'm happy for him being on another good team, a playoff-bound team, and he's playing great."

Gibson realizes Brewer is in a better position this season because of his starting role with the Knicks, but like the rest of the Bulls' holdovers from last season, he misses Brewer's presence in the locker room. The Knicks swingman wasn't always the most consistent scorer, but he always played solid defense and was a positive force off the floor to many of his teammates.

"He was a real veteran," Gibson said. "He was one of those guys that (was) never too high, never too low. Always encouraging, always had your back, you could always count on him -- and he's a great teammate. He's on another good team and you can tell the way they're playing that he's inspiring them to play great defense, and it's showing."

Perhaps the highest praise Brewer could have received came from Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

"Ronnie's just a great team player," Thibodeau said. "That's who he is. He plays to win, plays for the team, hard-playing, does a little bit of everything. (He) can score, pass, play-make, play great defense and he's a great teammate, very coachable. He did a great job for us when he was here and he's doing a great job for the Knicks."

Speaking of the Knicks, Thibodeau knows his team must be on its game in order to get a win. It will be interesting to see how the veteran coach changes his rotations, if at all, given how many minutes his starters played Friday night.

"They're on top of the conference, playing very, very well," Thibodeau said. "(They're) deep, talented, shooting the ball extremely well, playing great defense, playing together, playing hard. We got to be ready."

Given how up and down the Bulls have played this season, the players realize that a win over the Knicks, which would be their third in a row, would put them on track as they enter a tough part of their schedule.

"(Saturday's) huge," Bulls' center Joakim Noah said. "They're flying high. They played very well against Miami (Thursday), so they're going to be rested and ready to go. They're playing very well. They're playing probably the best basketball in the NBA right now. It's on us to come in ready."