Nine 20-points games, 41 games started, selected to NBA All-Rookie Second Team and helped his team to reach Eastern Conference Semifinals. It seems that undrafted point guard J. R. Bremer had a dream rookie season with the Boston Celtics in 02-03, which should have opened more opportunities for former St. Bonaventure University star in the future.
After the first great NBA season, however, Bremer was traded to Cleveland Cavaliers, where things quickly got worse. Bremer suffered through reduced minutes, losing his job as a starter and then ultimately being waived.
Bremer made a few unsuccessful attempts to find employment in the NBA that year, but in the summer of 2004 the left-handed guard decided to head to Europe "way too early” as he sees it now.
Now the 30-year-old Bremer is living a life he never thought he would, especially during his first few days in the NBA. Bremer has spent his last four seasons in Russia, where he played for three different teams. Bremer also plays for the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team and is planning to play in the European basketball championship this summer.
RealGM talked with Bremer about his NBA career, his knowledge of the Russian language and his international basketball experience.
RealGM: Let’s take you back to your first days in the NBA. Your rookie season in Boston was the best NBA season you had. Is it right to say that you felt more comfortable with Celtics than with the other teams?
Bremer: Yes, Boston was certainly my best NBA season. Many of the things that we accomplished there and some of the things that I accomplished personally made it an incredible experience. I would not say I was more comfortable with the Celtics, but they were the team that really gave me the (best) chance. In preseason and the first couple games in Cleveland, things were also going well but then my minutes declined.
RealGM: In your opinion, what were the reasons that you didn't stay in the NBA longer? Would you do something different if you had the chance to go back?
Bremer: I really don't know the answer to this question. I do believe that after I became a free agent in 2004-05, I signed to play in Spain way too early. Looking back, I would have gone through the whole NBA free agency process again and then I would have made a decision at the end of that summer.
RealGM: You have played with a lot of NBA superstars such as Paul Pierce, Carlos Boozer, LeBron James and Jason Richardson. Which player impressed you the most and do you keep in touch with any of them?
Bremer: When you talk about superstars it's hard to choose just one. I played with some great players and they all impressed me in different ways. What I can say about all of them as a whole is that they want to win and will do anything in their power to have their teams win.
RealGM: After you moved to Unicaja Malaga in 2004, did you feel that the NBA and Euroleague were two different level leagues?
Bremer: Coming from the NBA to the Euroleague, I really didn't know what to expect. I had heard many things. I would say as a whole the two leagues are on two different levels, but there are some teams in the Euroleague that I believe could compete in the NBA. Maybe not for a full 82-game season, since European teams don't play but two games per week compared to three or four games in a week in the NBA.
RealGM: You have played in a lot of countries -- Spain, Italy, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Russia. Which place have you liked the most?
Bremer: I had a great time in all of the countries where I played. I have had great teammates and that is the most important thing for me. The guys were cool on and off the court so that makes the season fun and flow smoothly.
RealGM: Krasnye Krylia had one of the best rosters in EuroCup tournament last season, however, things didn't go as well as expected for your club. In your opinion, what were the reasons that your team didn't make it out from their group in EuroCup?
Bremer: Injuries played a major part in our Eurocup season. I don't think we had our full healthy roster except for one game out of the six that we played. In that game where everyone was healthy, we showed what the team was capable of.
RealGM: You have been playing in Russia since 2007. Do you speak any Russian?
Bremer: I can understand the Russian language better than I can speak it. I can't actually hold a full conversation in Russian but I can get my point across.
RealGM: After all these years you spent in Europe, is there anything that still surprises you? Do you remember any funny stories from your life in Europe?
Bremer: I have played in Europe for six years now and experienced many different cultures so there isn't much that surprises me now. I have pretty much seen it all.
RealGM Talking about international hoops experience, how did you begin playing for Bosnia and Herzegovina? How did you like it?
Bremer: I like the international hoops experience a lot. Playing against the best players from their respective countries is great basketball during the summer.
RealGM: Do you plan to play for Bosnia in the future?
Bremer: This summer we have the European Championships in Lithuania and our team has a very competitive group. I plan to play this year if everything goes according to plans. Hopefully everything will work out and you will see me in Lithuania at the end of August.