May's lack of conditioning causing problems for already-thin Bobcats, Brown

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Lacking depth in the frontcourt, the Charlotte Bobcats were depending on Sean May's healthy return from knee surgery to fill the gaping hole at power forward.

After watching an unfit May lumber through eight exhibition games collecting more fouls (22) than rebounds (21), coach Larry Brown believes they have a problem.

"Right now I don't think he's ready to play at all," Brown said Saturday. "I think he's trying, but I don't think he's in the kind of shape to be able to compete on this level and do all the things he's capable of doing."

Brown had an extended talk with Bobcats managing partner Michael Jordan and general manager Rod Higgins after the workout. With May breathing heavy and with no consistent player behind him, the Bobcats face big trouble up front as they prepare to open the season Thursday at Cleveland.

"It's going to be a committee right now," Brown said when asked who would play power forward. "That's what I've been talking to Michael and Rod about."

May, who led North Carolina to a national championship, has played in only 58 of a possible 246 games since he was selected 13th overall in the 2005 draft. He sat out all of last season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee.

Already criticized for being too puffy in the middle, May spent 14 weeks on crutches and his weight soared. May has been slow to regain his conditioning since being cleared to play 5-on-5 in September.

May started all eight games in Charlotte's winless preseason, but foul trouble limited him to 16 minutes per game. He averaged just 5.1 points and 2.6 rebounds and shot 33 percent from the field.

"I've got to get in better shape. I've got to get in better condition," May said. "I haven't played in so long that, boom, it's hit me smack dab in the face. I'm picking up some early fouls due to being out of position. My timing is a little off. Now, here in a week we're getting ready to play, so I've got to do a lot of work."

It leaves Brown, beginning his record ninth NBA head coaching job, in a tough spot. Brown wants to keep Emeka Okafor at center and Gerald Wallace at small forward. But there's little behind May at power forward on a team that was consistently outrebounded last season.

Alexis Ajinca, a 7-footer from France, was taken with Charlotte's second first-round pick in June. But Ajinca is extremely raw and rail-thin and Brown has labeled him a project.

Jermareo Davidson and Ryan Hollins did little in the preseason. Andre Brown, signed to a non-guaranteed deal before camp, will likely make the team and see minutes.

May's fitness and the depth issues have led Brown to conclude they'll have to play at a slower pace than he would like -- until perhaps they reshape the roster.

"I was hoping we could pressure and we could run," Brown said. "But with Sean physically like he is and with us not being real deep right now, especially with the big guys, I think we've got to play a little bit closer to the vest. That doesn't mean that's how we want to play in the future."