Posted: Tuesday May 15, 2007 1:16PM; Updated: Tuesday May 15, 2007 3:11PM
Brown isn't nearly as excitable defensively -- he remains one of the best post defenders in the league -- but he's got to be only a first- and third-quarter guy at this stage in his career. At no time was this more apparent than in his up-and-down showing during Chicago's Game 4 win over the Pistons on Sunday. Brown was a sluggish shell of his first-half self in the second half, while rookie Tyrus Thomas (10 points, seven rebounds, a block in 13 minutes) nearly doubled Brown's production (six points, three rebounds, 26 minutes) in half the time. This is your classic big man to start the half with, not somebody to be expected to come off the pine in the fourth quarter and dive into a gap in the zone for a running hook. Thomas, for all his faults, is still heaps better at this early stage than Brown is in the winter of his distinguished career.
Interestingly enough, whether the Bulls go out in five games Tuesday or extend the series with Detroit, this appears to be the last time we'll see Skiles have to balance the minutes allotment between knowledgeable vets and the whippersnappers. Brown, a free agent, is unlikely to return, and the capped-out Bulls have only the two salary-cap exceptions to work with during the offseason.
Meanwhile, the lottery pick they'll receive from New York as part of the Eddy Curry trade likely will bring a top 10 pick. Thomas will expect to see more minutes, and the Bulls will have to show more commitment to Ben Gordon and Luol Deng if they extend their contracts this summer. Although, it should be noted, Skiles seems to appreciate what the rock-solid Deng has brought to the table during these playoffs -- the 22-year-old played 48 minutes in the win on Sunday. Yeesh.
Nocioni is a restricted free agent, but he's unlikely to be offered anything more than the mid-level exception, which the Bulls can match without having to use their own MLE. Duhon is another story. The guard, who was benched for Game 3 against the Pistons after missing a team video session, has an affordable contract ($3.2 million next season) that can be moved.
Those rumors about Chicago still having a chance at Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal or Pau Gasol? Bunk. Even assuming the trading partners want to play, those teams would have to take Ben Wallace, Kirk Hinrich's hard-to-move base-year compensation contract or Brown and/or Nocioni (and any number of youngsters) in some outrageous sign-and-trade deal.
So, for now, Skiles is left with the kids. Those talented, productive, sometimes-exciting and sometimes-enervating kids who are going to make or break this franchise. It's hard to comprehend a coaching challenge that Skiles can't handle, but considering his unease with not having at least one 35-year-old on the floor at times over the last 3½ seasons, it should be quite the subplot to watch. Just something to consider before you pencil in the Bulls as the 2008 Eastern Conference champs. Then, after the careful consideration, go ahead and pencil them in.