Ronnie Brewer's not afraid of heights

Bulls forward talks with RedEye before climbing the Willis Tower stairs

November 03, 2011|By Scott Bolohan | For RedEye

Ronnie Brewer and the Bulls were only one step away from the NBA Finals last year. And on SundayNov. 6, Brewer will take a lot of steps—1,209 to be exact.

With time on his hands due to the NBA lockout and a history of charity work, even being named Sporting Generosity’s September player of the month for his work with the Boys and Girls Club, Brewer will participate in SkyRise and climb all 103 stories of the Willis Tower. The event will benefit the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

On Tuesday, the day the Bulls had been scheduled to tip off the season in Dallas, Brewer called RedEye from Arkansas to talk about the climb, the lockout and his Halloween costume.

What made you decide to do the SkyRise climb?

It came up because of what they’re doing and the cause. I thought it was a good opportunity to make a difference in the community in the area where I play. Especially now with the lockout it’s a good opportunity to stay in shape as well as go out there and help others.

You are involved with a lot of other charity work. Why did you decide to get so involved?

Basically I feel like I’m in a situation where I was blessed by God and it would be wasted if I didn’t go out there and make an impact in the community. You try to do things like this for the right reason, from the heart. That’s why I’m involved in everything I’m involved in.

Have you ever been to the top of the Willis Tower?

By elevator. I went up there with the Chicago Bulls to give out some awards and scholarships to some high school kids. But not by stairs. It will be interesting.

Have you been training for it?

Other than basketball training, no. There’s a lot of motivation to do it, so any way that will continue to make me go will help.

Do you think being tall (6-foot-7) will help you?

[Laughs] No. I think it’s going to be as tough for me as anybody else. I don’t think you can train for this. I’m doing sprints and things like that, not Stairmaster or anything like that.

Do you have any strategy for doing it? Like two stairs at a time?

No. I’m going to try to use my whole body. As far as my arms, I’m going to try to pull myself up the rail and make sure my legs aren’t doing all the work. You have to use the arms and the rails so it’s not all lower body.

Have you received any advice from anyone who has done it before?

I haven’t right now. But I plan on getting as much advice and info as I possibly can so I don’t totally flop in front of everybody.

Are you worried about not making it up there?

I’m not worried about it. I think eventually you get some water and there’s a lot your body and withstand and go through. It should be fun. I know it’s going to be tough. If it was easy, they’d make a sport of it or do it for fun. But there’s a better cause and a better reason behind it so I’m looking forward to it.

The climb is benefiting the Rehab Institute of Chicago. How was your hamstring last year?

I think at the beginning of the year I tweaked it a little bit and it lingered around. But I think at the end of the year and the playoffs I felt like I was 110 percent. My legs were strong. It’s been a work in progress. Right now with the lockout I’m able to work out more than I’m able to do during the season. I miss the game a lot and I was really looking forward to going to go down to Dallas [on Tuesday] and putting it to them. But my legs feel good, I’m excited to get back out on the court.

Is that weird for you that [Tuesday] you should have been out there?

It’s very weird. I had family and relatives circling it on their calendars and it was like a four-and-a-half-hour drive or a 30-minute flight for them to go to Dallas, so it’s one of the places my family is able to come and catch some games, especially with them winning the championship last year and you want to beat the best. It shows where you are and where you need to be for the year.

What else have you been up to during the lockout?

Trying to train more so I can be more flexible, bring up my strength, flexibility, ability and quickness. I’ve been working on my jump shot so I can be more consistent and I can relieve D-Rose so when Joakim and Boozer gets the ball in the post they were really getting after Luol [Deng]. So for me I need to step up a little more so I can help the guys around me. That’s why I’ve been working hard and diligently to I can help more.

Are you optimistic about the lockout?

You got to have some [optimism]. You have to believe and stay optimistic and positive. Once you throw in the towel and say there’s no season, you let your body go and don’t stay in shape and you don’t work on your game, and that’s when they come to an agreement and the wheels are right back rolling. I feel all the players want to go back and play. They players want to go back and play. They want to do it for all the fans, the people who work in the arenas, the guys who work in the bars around the arenas, people in small market cities. That is why you stay optimistic, hopefully if there’s a will there’s a way.

Are you looking at going overseas if the lockout continues?

A lot of guys are staying optimistic because they feel like a deal could be done at any point. When they had the talks [oct. 28] Friday, we thought they could be done Monday. That’s why a lot of guys aren’t jumping so hard at going overseas. If David Stern comes back and says he’s canceling the games through the All-Star break or through the season, then I think everybody will drop what they’re doing and talk with their agents to get something done and get a deal done where they can still play basketball. Right now my focus is with the Chicago Bulls and being the best player I can be on their team.

How would you evaluate your first season as a Bull?

I think we had a good year finishing first overall in the NBA. I think teamwise we can up a little bit short and left some unfinished business on the table. It was a good first year, it was fun. But we do have some work to do to be better as a team to make it to the conference finals, to the NBA Finals and win a championship. I think that’s everybody’s goal on the team and with the coaching staff and front off. My goal is to continue to get better and be better than I was last year.

You played in every game last year.

For the most part I stayed healthy and I could contribute when called upon.

Have you been around Chicago much during the lockout?

I haven’t been. I had a trainer based in Chicago come down to Fayetteville (Ark.) and work me out. I haven’t been much around there because you can’t work out in our practice facility. You can’t lift, you can’t work out with the coaches, so I’ve been down in Arkansas. I went to Utah to work out with some of my guys and I’ll go back to Chicago to work out with some of my teammates to stay in shape.

Are the other guys on the team optimistic too?

I stay in contact with almost everybody on the team. No one is really jumping ship yet. I think everybody’s priority is with the Bulls. We’re all hoping the deal gets done and we can get back to winning a championship.

I saw a tweet—were you Ron Washington for Halloween?

[Laughs] Yeah. It was fun. It was crazy because it was so last minute. My best friend who lives in Fayetteville was like, ‘Hey, you’ve never been down here for my birthday,’ it was under bad circumstance because of the lockout but we all dressed up in costumes. Last minute, like within 30 minutes, we all had to come up with costumes. I went to Wal-Mart and got a clipboard and bought a wig from a costume store. One of my friends who I went to high school with played baseball at Arkansas so I got the pants from him. And I got the belt and cleats and a fake mustache from the costume store. I got a Rangers hat. I had sunflower seeds in my back pocket and kept some in my mouth. As the night went on a lot of that stuff went away. I let go of the clipboard because people kept trying to touch it. The sunflower seeds got taken out of my pocket. But I enjoyed the night, it was so much fun. I had a great time at my birthday party for my friend.

Did you watch the World Series at all?

Yeah. I don’t have a favorite team but I appreciate the game. In Chicago I know you either root for the White Sox or the Cubs but I’m just a fan of sports so I would watch it on TV. The area I was watching it in was pro-St. Louis Cardinals, so everyone around here was happy to see the Cardinals win.

You have to be getting excited about college basketball too.

Arkansas has a new coach and he’s going to bring us back to 40 minutes of Hell that was established back in the ‘90s. They’re working extremely hard so I’m excited to see how they do this year. I mean, if you are a basketball player, you are a fan of the game on whatever level. You enjoy watching it, you enjoy the competition, the camaraderie, the strategy that goes along with it, the preparation that goes into it. It just makes you hungry to work hard and get back on the court.

Scott Bolohan is a RedEye special contributor.

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