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Still in Charlotte, and now Mohammed even starting

- Associated Press - Thursday, September 30, 2010

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) - It wasn't even a year and a half ago that Nazr Mohammed was so frustrated at being buried on the bench by Bobcats coach Larry Brown that he wanted out of Charlotte.

Brown replied that he tried to trade Mohammed, but no found no takers.

Now after the departures of Emeka Okafor and Tyson Chandler, the 33-year-old Mohammed is not only still around, he's Brown's starting center.

Mohammed smiled and shook his head this week when asked what if someone had suggested this scenario in April 2009.

"I would have told you it was crazy, that I really thought something was wrong with you," he said. "I did not think I would last this long and definitely not starting. That was a rough, rough year for me mentally."

Mohammed was surprised at how he was received when Brown took over as Bobcats coach because this was their second time together. Brown was in Philadelphia in 1998 when the 76ers acquired the former Kentucky big man shortly after Utah drafted him in the first round.

"I kind of thought that he knew what I brought to the team," Mohammed said. "But it had been so long since I played for him. I didn't play much for him in my earlier years, years had passed. I thought he knew but I just had to reintroduce myself to him."

The Hall of Fame coach wasn't impressed After being a part-time starter a year earlier, Mohammed appeared in only 39 games in 2008-09 and averaged 2.7 points and 2.0 rebounds.

Mohammed's big contract made him difficult to trade, so he embarked on a rigid offseason conditioning program and came to training camp last year determined to win over Brown.

It didn't work right way.

"When he got to play early I thought he was terrible," Brown said.

Part of the problem is the 6-foot-10 Mohammed doesn't do the things Brown likes from a center. He's not extremely athletic, lacks a big wingspan and isn't an intimidating shot-blocker.

"You know what his prototypical center is and I know I'm not his prototypical center," Mohammed said. "But I know that you don't play 13 years in this league without being able to do some good things out on the floor."

That includes being a consistent scorer with a soft touch and an effective rebounder. He was also in great shape after his offseason workouts.

Mohammed slowly started to come on. In the same week in early February he had 23 points and 17 rebounds against the Los Angeles Lakers and 21 points and 20 rebounds against Minnesota.

"Maybe he got in better shape. Maybe he got stronger. But before he got hurt he was playing better than at any time I've ever seen," Brown said. "He tried to defend. He ran the floor and he earned the right to play."

But Mohammed hurt his back in late February. It took weeks before it was determined to be a nerve problem. Mohammed didn't play again until April 7, and by then Charlotte had acquired veteran Theo Ratliff, who started at center for the rest of the season and the playoffs.

Then Ratliff wasn't re-signed and the Bobcats traded Chandler _ who was acquire a year earlier for Okafor _ to Dallas for Erick Dampier. Charlotte initially wanted to waive Dampier and re-sign him, but he declined the offer and Dampier was let go.

That leaves Mohammed, DeSagana Diop and the injured Kwame Brown as Charlotte's centers. And Larry Brown still isn't quite sure Mohammed is his guy. He said of Mohammed and Diop this week that "the things that I want a center to do are difficult for them."

"It's hard sometimes but at the same time coach respects what I do," Mohammed said. "He's told me many, many times he was real happy with how I played last year and I do deserve an opportunity."

Mohammed is healthy and appears in great shape again. Beginning his 13th season, he adds some perspective on his ups and downs in the NBA and with the demanding Brown.

"You keep pushing and don't just sit over there sulking and bringing the team down, getting out of shape," Mohammed said. "No one wants to be around a guy like that."

Added Brown: "I don't want anybody on my team who doesn't want to play. The reality is, and Nazr figured it out, you've got to be prepared for when your turn happens."

Notes: Brown canceled Thursday's evening workout, but had the team go for nearly three hours in the lone practice. ... By the time the Bobcats finished Thursday, waterlogged Wilmington had received 21 inches of rain this week. It's had little affect on the Bobcats except for one thing. "I can't do my walk," Brown said. "I'm getting fat."

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