Mike Brown has a you've-got-to-be-kidding look on his face. Who me? A star? Get out of town. "I'm no star," he says.
Four games into the NBA playoffs, the Jazz reserve forward may not be a star, but he is as visible as he has ever been in his five-year NBA career. Television commentators are noting his punishing, physical style. Karl Malone is saying Brown should be the MVP of the first round 3-1 win over Phoenix. Coach Jerry Sloan is calling him "terrific."To put it simply, Big Mike Brown is a hot ticket. Television, radio and newspaper reporters are asking for him every day.
"It is a little different," says Brown, "because it (the attention) wasn't there all year. But I take it in stride. I try not to get too high when things are going good or too low when they aren't. I just continue one day at a time."
Whatever Brown's status, this much is certain: As the Jazz move toward Tuesday's second-round opener against the Portland Trail Blazers, they will need his continued success. Portland is deep, talented, aggressive and strong. The Jazz will need something to counter with.
"Everyone who steps on the floor has got to play their (expletive) off. We've got to compete," says Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan. "We can't afford to have a guy who feels sorry for himself because he didn't get the call."
Brown is among the least of the complainers, whether it be to officials or coaches. Though he played relatively little at the end of the season he waited patiently. But once the playoffs began, he became a permanent fixture. With Mark Eaton often in foul trouble and the Suns having a deep bench, the need for Brown was obvious. He responded by averaging 10.2 points and 8.8 rebounds in the four-game series, playing a total of 97 minutes.
In Brown's previous playoff experience he has never played more than 67 minutes or averaged more than 3.6 points a game (both last year).
The next order could be tougher than the last. Portland has a bench deep enough that Sloan once said the Blazers could field two good NBA teams. "You want to talk about athletes, wait 'till you see one of those teams," said Sloan before the Blazers eliminated Seattle on Saturday. "They're teams that jump so well it looks like they've got guys coming out of the ceiling."
Coming out of the celing isn't Brown's strong point. Physical basketball is. As the lone reserve for both Karl Malone and Mark Eaton, when Brown gets the call, he knows his job.
"I feel whatever situation that is in the game, if I can get in there and give it a maximum effort, then the effect will be to help us win," he says.
Though many would contend Brown needs to play well for the Jazz to win in the playoffs, he doesn't necessarily agree. "We won playoff games and have gone to the second round without me before," says Brown, who was acquired by the Jazz for the 1988-89 season. "So I'm not the key. Like everyone, I just help out wherever I can."
Despite the upsurge in his numbers, Brown says he has made no changes in his game. Same player, different situation. "I go out there the same way as always. That's just me, it's my personality. It's just another day at the office where you tie your shoes on and go to work."
JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz held a 11/2 hour practice Saturday at Westminster, then returned to their homes to watch the Seattle-Portland playoff game . . . The Sonics are the first No. 8 team to extend the No. 1 team to a fifth game . . . In qualifying for the conference semifinals, the Jazz players earned $55,000, to be divided among them. The teams play the first two playoff games in Portland Tuesday and Thursday, with games Saturday and Sunday in Salt Lake.