P.J. Brown | Senior Partner
Bulls forward P.J. Brown has been selected to three NBA All-Defensive Second Teams (1997, 1999 and 2001).
By Conrad Theodore | Posted October 5, 2006
Someone forgot to tell P.J. Brown that he’s 37 years old. He doesn’t look like it. He doesn't play basketball like it. And he certainly doesn’t act like it.
Case in point: While most athletes begin to break down as the years rack up, Brown has only missed 14 games in the last five seasons. That’s in over 400 games if you’re keeping score. In fact, his longest stretch of games missed is just six—and that was back at the tender age of 28, when he was sidelined by a sprained ankle.
“You have to be lucky to stay away from injuries, but working hard and taking care of your body is a big part of it,” says the 14-year veteran, who relies on stretching, lifting weights and doing yoga even at the risk of being subject to ridicule by much younger teammates. “That’s why you’re starting to see older players lasting longer in the league. My work ethic is something that I’m very proud of.”
After so many years of competing head to head against Brown, the Bulls organization is excited to have him on their side of the fence. During this past offseason, he and guard J.R. Smith were acquired from the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets in exchange for Tyson Chandler (Smith was then traded to the Denver Nuggets).
“We really welcome the veteran leadership that P.J. brings to our team,” said Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson. “He brings a consistent game at both ends of the floor, and we’re counting on his production in helping us improve as a team.”
When it comes to basketball, P.J. Brown is a self-described “late bloomer.” He never played for an organized team until his junior year in high school in Winnfield, Louisiana—and that was only at the urging of a couple of buddies on the team who forced him to come out.
“I was the tallest kid in school, at like 6’6”, who wasn’t doing anything athletic, so I decided, why not?” explains the now 6’ll” Brown.
Brown joined the Nets as a 24-year old rookie after playing one season overseas in Greece. New Jersey had selected the 6’11” Louisiana Tech strongman with the 29th overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft.
(Andy Hayt/NBAE/Getty Images)
In 1992, Brown was drafted in the second round by the New Jersey Nets, but, as he puts it, “Contractually, we couldn’t get on the same page.” So he packed his bags and his game and went overseas to Greece, playing for Panionios.
“It was a priceless experience—the travels, the people, the culture,” recalls Brown. “To be honest, I didn’t think I was ever going to make it back to the NBA. I just had my mind set on staying in Europe.”
What Brown didn’t know was that the Nets still had their eye on him, watching his progress and making another attempt to bring him back into the league. Of course, that seems like ancient history to him now as he enters his fourteenth year in the NBA. But, as they say, time does have a way of flying when you’re having fun racking up rebounds.
“It’s weird. I can remember being the young guy looking up to Rick Mahorn and Armon Gilliam—they were the veterans. They were putting me under their wings and directing me,” explains Brown. “And now I’m that guy. I try to give the younger guys knowledge and be supportive and try to show them the way.”
While many of Brown’s younger teammates grew up dreaming of being like Mike, Scottie, Dennis, Pax and so on down the line, Brown was too busy actually playing against the dynasty Bulls of the ‘90s.
“I remember ten years ago. It was their fifth championship season, and we lost to them in the playoffs. It really hurt, but they were just too tough, with Jordan leading the way,” remembers Brown. “It was exciting and I guess something I can always tell my kids and grandkids about. But an even more exciting time in Chicago for me was playing in the old Chicago Stadium. It was really an honor to play there, and I’ll never forget that experience. I guess I’m showing my age.”
Brown’s age may raise some questions about his durability, but his numbers speak for themselves. He played nearly 32 minutes per game last season for the Hornets, averaging 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds. Prior to that, he had three straight seasons of at least 10 points and 8.5 boards. Throughout his lengthy career, he has been regarded as a strong defender and great rebounder and team leader. And, in recent years, he has added a consistent spot-up jumper anywhere inside 15 feet.
After three seasons in New Jersey, Brown jumped to Miami as a free agent in 1996, where he teamed with perennial All-Star Alonzo Mourning to form one of the NBA’s best-ever defensive frontlines.
Many teams not only respect P.J. Brown but know him very well. Before joining the Bulls, he played with the Nets, Miami Heat, and the Hornets, which wasn’t always an easy transition.
“Because I’ve been traded before, I know better what to expect. The biggest difference between the earlier days and now is the family. When it’s only you and your wife, you just move. You don’t have to worry about school records and uprooting the kids (the Browns have four children ranging from four to 16 in age). That’s really the hardest part now. They get settled and then suddenly we have to move.”
Brown is quick to point out that the unsung hero in his family, who makes every move as smoothly as a Chicago Bulls fast break, is his college sweetheart and wife, Dee.
“She’s my best friend and knows me better than I know myself,” gushes Brown. “Dee has been my backbone and has kept everything together for all these years.”
The Bulls are banking that Brown will provide the kind of leadership and experience that Antonio Davis gave the team two years ago. Brown is only too happy to take on that responsibility but would also like to provide more on the court. His impression of the Bulls last season was that of an energetic hardworking team that plays with a lot of passion and plays to win. “I’m just trying to bring a little bit more to what they’ve already done,” he says.
Brown admits that he heard rumors of his being traded to Chicago as far back as a couple of weeks before it actually took place.
“This was before anyone had any idea that Ben Wallace was coming. So, when I heard the news, I was in shock,” Brown says pleasantly. “I’m really excited about coming to Chicago. The future here looks bright. But I’m even more excited and a little surprised that Ben Wallace signed with the Bulls and left Detroit. I’ve always been a big admirer of his game.”
Since Wallace is considered an undersized center at 6’9”, the Bulls figure to rely on Brown to help out at both the center and forward positions.
In addition to Wallace, Brown says he has crossed paths a few times with Bulls top pick, Tyrus Thomas, also a native of Louisiana, and was very impressed with what he accomplished in the NCAA Tournament.
The genial Brown and his wife, Dee, regularly look to play an active role in the community.
(Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)
And talk about a small world, Brown’s brother-in-law played high school basketball with guard Chris Duhon. “There are definitely several connections here,” laughs Brown.
It’s no laughing matter when late summer turns into early fall at the Brown household. Even though it’s still a couple of months before the season actually begins, that’s the time when P.J. begins putting on his game face.
“August and September are the two toughest months for me out of the whole year,” claims Brown. “That’s when I start to build the body back up and get mentally focused for the season. I always expect to be in tip-top shape when training camp starts.”
With the solid core group of players returning and the addition of a couple of rookies and several veterans, training camp should be a spirited effort. But, regardless of who comes out of the blocks early, Coach Scott Skiles is known for mixing up his lineups throughout the season. Which means a starting position is in no way guaranteed. So the big question is how well will that sit with a 14-year veteran?
“I don’t think it matters,” says Brown. “For the last couple of years I’ve been in both situations. Throughout my career I’ve started more, but it’s all about winning. That’s the most important thing. As long as we end up with a “W”, it doesn’t matter who starts and who finishes.”
Defense and rebounding have always been Brown’s bread and butter, but numbers don’t mean a thing to him. That’s why, with the exception of just giving his all, he doesn’t assign himself any individual goals for the season.
“I used to want to make the All-Star team. I have to be honest about that. That used to be my dream,” says Brown. “But now there’s only one goal, one dream. And that’s to win a championship. I dream about it and think about it, and I would love to be the last man standing. And I tell you I like my chances in Chicago.”
Brown’s imposing presence can only add to Chicago’s already impressive team defensive credentials.
(Chris Covatta/NBAE/Getty Images)
“My kids love the NBA and come to as many games as they can. They’re really into it,” Brown says, also knowing what’s just around the corner. “They have their favorite players and, although they haven’t asked me to get them autographs, I have a feeling this year is the year they take it to the next level.” After some thought and a chuckle, Brown adds, “If they do well in school, I might go out on a limb.”
The one area of concern that P.J. and his wife Dee have for their four kids is the need to establish their own identities. “I don’t want them to be looked at as just NBA player P.J. Brown’s kids. But so far they seem to handle it well. I’ve been around a long time, so they’re kind of veterans too.”
With so many years under his belt, Brown knows that nothing lasts forever, but he doesn’t see any reason why it has to end any time soon either.
“Mentally, I feel good; physically I feel good. I don’t know what that means, so I’ll just leave it at that,” laughs Brown. “The most important thing is, I still enjoy the game, enjoy competing, and still have a passion for it.”
The 2006.07 Chicago Bulls will no doubt include some fresh new legs with much needed size and experience, resulting in numerous victories. P.J. Brown plans to do what he can to make sure the preseason prediction becomes a postseason reality. And, with a little bit of luck, live that dream he’s been chasing after for so many years. A championship would certainly be the icing on the cake, but the journey has been a memorable one.
“I have to pinch myself everyday I wake up. I never thought I’d be sitting where I am today,” states Brown. “This is going to be my fifteenth year as a professional, and I don’t take this for granted—especially now. When you get to this stage in life, you know the clock is ticking, and you begin to wonder how much longer you’re going to be able to go. All the victories and all the moments you experience become even more precious.”
Of course in his next breath, P.J. Brown mentions that he doesn’t see why he can’t play until he’s 40. As long as he doesn’t look like it or act like it or, more important, play like it, perhaps we shouldn’t mention P.J. Brown’s age at all.