WILMINGTON, N.C. – Players with checkered pasts. Guys trying to come back from gruesome injuries. Still another trying to prove he's not a bust.
From Stephen Jackson and Javaris Crittenton to Shaun Livingston, Darius Miles and Kwame Brown, Charlotte Bobcats training camp is loaded with guys in various stages of overcoming obstacles and shedding baggage.
Coach Larry Brown is at it again.
"My whole career I've had a lot of players who have been great that a lot of people didn't want for different reasons, or didn't think could play," the well-traveled Brown said Wednesday. "All of a sudden, I find out they help us win."
But even Brown, in his 10th pro head coaching job, may have outdone himself with this group.
Jackson (30 games) and Crittenton (38 games) have served lengthy suspensions for bad behavior. Livingston is trying to come back from a knee injury that makes many queasy when it's replayed.
Miles has the double-whammy of trying to return from major knee surgery and legal issues. Kwame Brown is attempting to shed the label as perhaps the worst No. 1 overall pick by joining a team owned by Michael Jordan — the guy who drafted him.
"This game is about timing. Everybody has adversity in this game," Jackson said. "A lot of guys go through injuries. A lot of guys go through trades. But all it takes is that one team to get with, that one year for you to come into your own and then things start to go good.
"I think (Brown) has been around long enough to see that happen to a lot of guys, including myself."
Jackson is one of Brown's success stories. Jackson was disgruntled in Golden State and only five years removed from going into the stands during the infamous brawl in Auburn Hills, Mich., when the Bobcats acquired him in a trade last November.
Jackson went on to average 21.1 points and help the Bobcats reach the playoffs for the first time.
"I think coach Brown has one of the biggest hearts of any coach I've ever played for," Jackson said. "Not only does he care about you as far as reaching your potential, he cares about you as a person. A lot of times when guys he's coaching are going through things, he's going through it with them."
Now Brown has taken on more projects, and success is far from certain.
Crittenton was suspended last season for his role in the gun incident with Gilbert Arenas in Washington. He came to the Bobcats with a non-guaranteed contract hoping to play a role in the backcourt.
Miles, a former No. 3 overall pick, is attempting a comeback from what a doctor once described as a "career-ending" knee injury that kept him out of the league for two years. Miles has also faced drug charges and served a suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Kwame Brown is sidelined for at least a month with a sprained ankle as he tries to find a secure spot in the league after failing to live up to expectations. And Livingston was sidelined from Wednesday morning's practice as he continues a long road back from tearing three ligaments and dislocating his kneecap in a 2007 game.
"This is a great opportunity for me," Livingston said. "The situation is a blessing for me considering my role the past couple years."
Sure, the group has some issues, but Jackson thinks it might even give the Bobcats an edge.
"The guys who took the long road or have been through ups and downs, they play harder and they want it more," Jackson said. "They feel like they have something to prove."
Brown clearly relishes the challenge. He talked proudly Wednesday of going to the NBA finals with Philadelphia in 2001 with Allen Iverson and an unheralded cast of George Lynch, Eric Snow, Tyrone Hill, Theo Ratliff and Aaron McKie.
Brown has said countless times that he's not afraid of coaching anyone after working with Iverson. And he's still not afraid to take on big projects.
"When I see Darius and when I see Javaris and I see Kwame Brown, Stephen Jackson, that's the greatest," Brown said. "They help you and as a coach you feel like you helped them. I don't think it gets any better than that."
Notes: F Tyrus Thomas was sidelined Wednesday with a sore right ankle. ... Jackson has been impressed with PG D.J. Augustin early in camp. "D.J. is starting to take control of this team," Jackson said. "He's speaking in the huddles now. He's taken more of a leadership role on this team." ... Ex-76ers coach Eddie Jordan, a friend of Brown, has been on the floor doing some coaching. "I've always tried to help guys who have lost their job," Brown said. "I think it's important."