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Brown returns for 3rd season in Charlotte with uncertainty after key departures

Bobcats forward Boris Diaw didn't seem to mind that he's nearly been traded twice. D.J. Augustin insisted he's not paying attention to talk he could be dealt or supplanted as a starter.

And Charlotte coach Larry Brown was lamenting what he already lost over the summer, uncertain if he has the personnel at point guard and center to succeed in the improved Eastern Conference.

With a never-satisfied, outspoken coach and a constantly changing roster, the Michael Jordan-owned Bobcats are rarely boring. Monday was no different as the team gathered for media day after a weekend of trade discussions.

"If you don't have control over it, why would you worry about it?" said the laid-back Diaw, involved in the latest trade talk after almost being shipped to Toronto in July. "Just waiting for stuff to be confirmed."

There was little news.

General manager Rod Higgins provided scant information after the proposed four-team trade involving Carmelo Anthony hit a snag. Charlotte would get former All-Star point guard Devin Harris from New Jersey in the deal, while Diaw would head to Utah. Augustin was also discussed in early proposals.

"I've heard my name in trade rumors before. I'm not even going to listen to it," Augustin said. "I love Charlotte. If anything happens, it's the NBA, it's a business."

Brown expressed disappointment the trade talks became public, but insisted Charlotte wasn't actively trying to deal Diaw or Augustin.

"We're not calling around. That's not us," Brown said. "For Rod not to receive phone calls and try to better our team, I think would be inexcusable. But I don't think we've initiated any of the talk you guys are hearing about."

Not that Brown is thrilled with the 19-man roster he takes to UNC Wilmington for camp. Not after the Bobcats traded center Tyson Chandler to Dallas and lost point guard Raymond Felton to New York in free agency following their first playoff appearance.

"Yeah, I died," Brown said on his reaction when Felton departed. "Everything I value he did."

Harris would provide an instant replacement, but it's possible that deal may never happen. That would leave Augustin, who struggled last season, as the likely starter. Newly signed Shaun Livingston, Javaris Crittenton and undrafted rookie Sherron Collins are behind him.

Brown said it could mean a change in how the Bobcats, who ranked 28th in scoring and 29th in turnovers last season, will play on offense. Brown envisions using Diaw, Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace more as ballhandlers.

"We've got to figure out how to get Jack and Boris and Gerald and all these other guys where they're playmakers as well," Brown said. "It's going to be an adjustment for some guys."

Brown has more concerns at center. While Chandler was plagued by injuries in his only season in Charlotte, the Bobcats also didn't re-sign veteran Theo Ratliff. That leaves Nazr Mohammed, DeSagana Diop and Kwame Brown — who was in a protective boot Monday after a severe ankle sprain last week.

"Nazr and DeSagana, the things that I want a center to do, are difficult for them," said Brown, who wants big men to block shots, be able to defend smaller players on the perimeter and run the floor. "We'll just have to figure it out."

Mohammed brushed off the comment and vows to get back to the form he was before getting hurt late last season.

"This is my 13th year," Mohammed said. "I am what I am. ... I'm not a shot-blocker."

Wallace, coming off his first All-Star season, and Jackson, who helped elevate Charlotte to the postseason after being acquired from Golden State last season, return as the top scoring threats. Brown just doesn't know if that's enough in the East, where Miami constructed a team of superstars and New York, New Jersey and Washington added players.

"I think the challenge is much, much greater than last year based on who we had, who we lost and we got and what's gone on in our league," Brown said.

Brown, who turned 70 this month, is back for his third season after flirting with leaving at the end of last season. Given his history of tinkering and Jordan's willingness to trade, another roster shake up is possible.

Brown seemed to be hoping for that when asked if the team had regressed following an offseason of moves designed to get under the NBA's luxury tax payroll figure of $70.3 million.

Brown declined to answer the question directly. But he first listed the players they lost: Felton, Chandler, Ratliff, Stephen Graham and Larry Hughes. Brown then listed the layers Charlotte acquired: Livingston, Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera and Dominic McGuire

"I'm hopeful that the guys we mentioned that we added are going to be valuable contributors," Brown said, "and the young guys that we have coming back have improved a whole hell of a lot."

Notes: Jackson disputed a report of a July home invasion involving his wife at their Charlotte home when Jackson wasn't there. "There's been no proof of anyone breaking in," Jackson said. "My attitude is it didn't happen. I was going through a divorce situation with my wife at the time." ... Brown said the first example in an NBA video describing the crackdown on demonstrative actions toward officials had Jackson flailing his arms. "It's going to be an adjustment, but it won't be a big deal," Jackson said. ... Livingston said he may practice once a day in camp as he continues his comeback from a severe knee injury. ... The Bobcats invited 6-11 rookie Matt Rogers from Division II Southwest Baptist University to camp. ... Brown said he wished camp was in Chapel Hill so former North Carolina coach Dean Smith could more easily attend practices.