By trading Kelly Tripucka Thursday, the Jazz came away with the starting center for a playoff team.

Mike Brown started 24 games for the Chicago Bulls. The catch is, that all happened in January and February and Brown was buried on the bench the rest of the season, playing a total of four minutes in two playoff series.So whether the 6-foot-9, 258-pound Brown solves the Jazz's annual search for a backup center remains a big question. Scoring? Not this guy. In the wake of the trade, Coach Frank Layden said of Brown, "We just know that he played well against us." In two regular-season games against the Jazz, Brown had six points in 27 minutes, all on free throws.

But Brown is a hard worker who could give the Jazz rebounding help off the bench at two positions. A criminal-justice graduate of George Washington University, Brown was Chicago's third-round draft choice in 1985 but went to Italy. He joined the Bulls in 1986-87 and last season became their starting center after Artis Gilmore was waived. Later, Coach Doug Collins went exclusively to veteran Dave Corzine, using forwards Charles Oakley and Horace Grant to back him up. Even Granville Waiters played more than Brown.

"I really don't know why it was up and down like that, the 180-degree turn," Brown said from his New Jersey home Wednesday. "Nothing was ever said to me at all, but I didn't let it affect me. I took it more as a learning experience."

Said Bernie Young, Brown's agent, "It was a coaching decision. They basically used eight players, but Mike showed what he could do; he did well well when he was playing."

In the past three seasons, the Jazz were dissatisfied with Jeff Wilkins, Kent Benson and Mel Turpin as Mark Eaton's backups. While Turpin is still on the roster, Brown becomes the next No. 1 candidate, at least until Tuesday's NBA draft.

Fred Roberts, formerly of Bingham High, BYU and the Jazz, was drafted by Miami and traded to Milwaukee Thursday for a second-round draft pick. Boston had signed him to another two-year contract before the season ended, but Roberts figured he was a likely expansion candidate, especially after the Celtics made arrangements to protect additional players.

But the trade was something different. "It was a shock," Roberts said. "I'm trying to figure out where I'm going to fit in there. I just hope they've got a place for me."

The Bucks have a similar player in Larry Krystkowiak, but Coach Del Harris plans to use Roberts at both forward positions.

- Kurt Kragthorpe