Bulls, Raptors Add Probable Starters in Brewer, Kleiza
Chicago signed Ronnie Brewer to a three-year, $12.5 million contract, and he likely will take over as the team's starting shooting guard. That's not a surprise since Brewer (photo right) has trotted out at the beginning of 223 of his 271 career NBA games.
But the other guy in the fold likely to become a starter is more of a surprise. Linas Kleiza, who joined Toronto after Denver failed to match a four-year, $18.8 million offer sheet on the restricted free agent by Friday's deadline, has started just 36 of 301 career NBA games.
"With the departure of (Hedo) Turkoglu (in a trade earlier this week to Phoenix), right now he's the starting small-forward option,'' Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo said in an interview with FanHouse at the NBA Summer League. "It makes this (acquisition) even more important.''
Nuggets coach George Karl, though, told FanHouse that Denver would have matched the offer on Kleiza had it not been able to land forward Al Harrington earlier this week. Harrington agreed to a five-year, $33.4 million deal Tuesday night, which he signed Thursday.
"We needed somebody (at forward) to play 25 to 35 minutes a game,'' Karl said. "If Harrington would have went to some place else, I think that we would have matched on L.K.''
The Nuggets had failed to land anybody previously in free agency, offering similar contracts to forward Jermaine O'Neal (went to Boston) and Udonis Haslem (went to Miami) as they did to Harrington. Had they not landed the 6-foot-9 Harrington, they were prepared to bring back the 6-8 Kleiza, who played with the Nuggets from 2005-09 before spending last season in Greece with Olympiakos, and play small ball.
The Bulls also had uncertainty this week. They had tendered a three-year, $19 million offer sheet last week to J.J. Redick, but turned to Brewer when the Magic officially matched it Friday.
"We're very excited to get him,'' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of Brewer, who split last season between Utah and Memphis before becoming a free agent. "He has great size (at 6-7). His versatility is his strength. His ability to play multiple positions (also small forward). Obviously, we think he's great at running the floor, slashing and cutting to the basket and finishing around the basket. (Brewer has) the athleticism we feel we need. ... I know he's started a number of games in this league so the experience he has is big.''
While Kleiza (photo right) hasn't started many games, he's had his moments. They include a 41-point game in January 2009 against Utah.
"We look forward to him coming and bringing the versatility that he brings to the position,'' said Colangelo, who said the Raptors still might sign a shooter who can be backup at shooting guard and small forward. "We think he's a spread (power forward) or a big (small forward) that can do a lot of different things. I think he's got an innate toughness, both mental and physical that we've lacked. So it should be a nice addition.''
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson