Friday October 30th, 2009

Rod Strickland. Mark Jackson. Chauncey Billups. Eric Snow. It seems every stop Larry Brown has made during his 25-year NBA coaching career he has been given a pretty good point guard. And it seems every time he has managed to make that point guard a little bit better.

Take Billups. He was already a prolific scoring guard before Brown took over in Detroit in 2003. The year before Brown's arrival, Billups averaged 16.2 points on a 50-win Pistons team that made it to the Eastern Conference finals. But under the tutelage of the man former North Carolina coach Dean Smith once referred to as "the gold standard of point guards," Billups developed into a savvy floor general and NBA Finals MVP.

"As a point guard, he opens your eyes," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who played for Brown with the Clippers in 1992. "He gets you to really start thinking about the little things. I don't know if it's pleasant for a point guard to go through, but it's great when you are finished."

In his ninth NBA stop, Brown now has two skilled playmakers in Charlotte in Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin, who make up perhaps the strongest position on the roster. And the Bobcats will need superior performances from both if they hope to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

"They have two good ones," Rivers said. "Felton is a probing power point guard, and D.J. is a phenomenal shooting point guard."

Teaching is the 69-year-old Brown's forte -- the Hall of Famer has said he thinks of himself as a college coach -- and he has had to do a lot of it with Felton and Augustin, two very different types of players. Felton is a bulldog who attacks the rim with reckless abandon. When Brown was hired before the start of last season, Bobcats boss Michael Jordan asked him to figure out if Felton could be an NBA point guard. Previous Bobcats coaches shuttled the 6-foot-1, 198-pound Felton between both guard spots. Brown put an end to that. Even when Augustin is on the floor, Felton is responsible for initiating the offense.

"He's always the point guard," Brown said. "I don't want him to worry about going back and forth."

Augustin was already a pure playmaker when the Bobcats drafted him with the ninth pick in '08. Brown has worked with Augustin on game management while pushing him to use his dizzying speed to create more opportunities for his teammates.

"Point guard is such a vital position," Brown said. "You're an extension of the coaching staff. You hope they all realize early on how much we expect from them. I've been blessed to be with some pretty special ones and these two guys really want to learn and want to get better."

Truth be told, they don't have much of a choice. "[Brown] stays on top of you," Felton said. "He has the mentality of a college coach where he screams at you and stays on top of you every play. Even when you do something right, he still finds something you could have done better. That makes you better."

They will need to get better quickly if the Bobcats are to actually reach the postseasonl. In Wednesday night's 33-point, season-opening loss at Boston, Charlotte scored a franchise-low 59 points and the Felton-Augustin duo finished with 10 points, seven assists and six turnovers. New Bobcats center Tyson Chandler, who teamed with Chris Paul to lead the league in alley-oop dunks in each of the last two seasons, went scoreless in 21 minutes despite being wide open on several occasions on screen-and-rolls. Adding injury to insult, Felton needed 15 stitches to close a gash in his lower lip after Kevin Garnett landed on him in the second quarter.

"We have a chance to get better," Brown said. "I don't know when that will happen. Obviously, we have some people who are going to be big parts of our team that aren't quite ready now. This is just a process."

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