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News » Brown-Jordan marriage to be tested in Charlotte

Brown-Jordan marriage to be tested in Charlotte

Brown-Jordan marriage to be tested in Charlotte
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Shortly after beginning his first training camp in his record ninth NBA head coaching job, Larry Brown was asked how he planned to get the Charlotte Bobcats - a franchise that has never come close to the playoffs - into contention in the Eastern Conference.

"I told them to not worry about what we've done in the past," Brown said. "Shoot, I wouldn't be here if Michael worried about what I did my last year. He's given me a chance."

But Michael Jordan may have needed Brown more than Brown needed the basketball icon. Jordan's second foray into running a team has been far from a success. After his gamble in hiring the inexperienced Sam Vincent led to a near player mutiny and a disastrous 32-50 record, Jordan fired him after just one season and turned to Brown.

Eager not to let his ugly, turmoil-filled 23-59 debacle in New York two years ago be the final chapter of his Hall of Fame career, the vagabond coach accepted the offer from his fellow former North Carolina alum.

Brown's hiring gives the money-losing franchise instant credibility, and Brown's dedication to teaching should help a team that includes several young, athletic players.

The question is, can Brown, the driven perfectionist who always wants to tinker with his roster, coexist with Jordan's manage-from-afar style that got him fired in Washington and has produced a flawed roster in Charlotte?

An 0-8 preseason, a gaping hole at power forward and questionable depth leave the Bobcats with plenty of concerns as they try to improve on last season's step backward and contend for the final playoff spot in the East.

"I'm not down," Brown said. "Even though we were 0-8 and, God, you wish you could have some positive result in some of these games, I do think we're getting better."

But with Brown's history and with depth issues a major concern, the Charlotte team that opens the season Thursday in Cleveland might look a lot different after the Feb. 19 trade deadline.

With Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor, the Bobcats have three clear-cut, veteran starters. But point guard and power forward are questions.

Sean May is Charlotte's likely power forward, even though he's played in only 58 games in three seasons because of a troublesome right knee. After sitting out all of last season following microfracture surgery, May has struggled to get in shape and had more fouls (22) than rebounds (21) in the preseason.

When asked over the weekend how many minutes he could expect to get out of May, Brown replied, "Right now I don't think he's ready to play at all."

Trouble is, Brown has no other legitimate options. His other big men include rail-thin rookie project Alexis Ajinca, Jermareo Davidson and Ryan Hollins, who combined for 267 points last season, journeyman Andre Brown, and aging Nazr Mohammed, who is more suited as Okafor's backup at center.

It was probably no surprise then that Brown, who has clashed with management at his other stops, has already questioned Jordan, who is rarely seen or heard from in Charlotte. Brown lamented the team's lack of depth up front before training camp began, and it's likely he'll push for a move that brings in a rugged veteran forward.

Brown will also referee an intriguing competition at point guard that includes veteran Raymond Felton, in the final year of his contract, and rookie first-round pick D.J. Augustin.

Felton, the fifth pick in the 2005 draft, clearly begins the season as a starter after being shuttled between both guard spots last year under Vincent. But Felton struggled in the preseason as he adjusts to Brown's motion offense.

"Raymond will be fine," Brown said. "Right now he's like a robot. He's trying to think instead of just play."

The 6-foot Augustin, the ninth pick in June from Texas, is undersized but quick and more of a pass-first point guard than Felton.

The playmakers will have plenty of options on the wing. Richardson, who led the NBA with 243 3-pointers last season, heads a large group of jump shooters that includes subs Matt Carroll and Adam Morrison, who's returning after missing all of last season with a knee injury.

Wallace, who was shopped in the offseason, returns at small forward and provides tremendous athleticism and driving ability. But he must stop gambling so much on defense to fit Brown's defensive style.

Okafor, signed to a six-year, $72 million deal in August, gives Charlotte a solid rebounder and shot-blocker, but is limited offensively.

Still, Brown has harped on getting players to work the shot clock before hoisting jumpers in hopes of getting Okafor more involved.

"We've got to share the ball," May said. "The good teams, they pass the ball early. They never miss the open man and sometimes we do."

Brown is worried about more than just quick shots, though. May's physical condition has led Brown to conclude he'll have to not run on offense as much as he wanted.

"Now we've been trying to run all the time and I think we found out that maybe we need to be a little slower or closer to the vest," Brown said. "We always want to get it up quick, but I think we need to be a little more organized."

The Bobcats are certainly more organized on the bench with Brown. But with a roster that needs tweaking and an improved Eastern Conference, Brown has work to do to get the fifth-year Bobcats into the playoffs for the first time.

The challenge has left Brown little time to relish his return to the bench or his North Carolina reunion with Jordan.

"I've learned a lot about what our guys can do and can't do," Brown said. "Now our job is to really refine it and put them in the position to be successful. Then I'd feel better."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 26, 2008


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