There are jobs in sports that invite unique scrutiny:
Being Bill Parcells' quarterback. Being George Steinbrenner's manager. Being Larry Brown's point guard.
Charlotte Bobcat Raymond Felton knew it was coming – the nagging, nitpicking, foot-stomping and shouting. It's been nearly a month since he started running plays for Brown, and his response to all the fine-tuning?
Keep it coming.
“It's tough love,” Felton said Wednesday. “He's all for his point guards, but at the same time he's all over his point guards.
“He stays on me. He stays on D.J. (Augustin, the rookie backup) but he's harder on me. That's because I'm the starting point guard. And I can take it.”
There's hardly a moment when Brown isn't correcting, and he's in Felton's ear the most. It's always been so, through 24 NBA seasons with Brown as coach. Eric Snow heard it in Philadelphia. Chauncey Billups heard it in Detroit. Felton knew it would be constant, knew it could be shrill.
So during the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday, when Felton strode to the bench, Brown tugged on Felton's jersey. Then the Hall of Fame coach dissected the last five minutes of play in a blunt monologue.
Felton's reply: Nod, listen, process. … Nod, listen, process. One of Brown's favored catchphrases – “Players must learn the difference between criticism and coaching” – applies to no one more than his starting point guard.
“I'm the guy who makes the other guys go,” Felton said. “If I'm not getting it done, then how is D.J. supposed to (learn)? He's on top of me all the time – in practice, (watching) film, any time we're together. But I can take it.”
It helps that Felton has a buffer zone; he and Bobcats assistant Phil Ford have a long, trusting relationship.
The three of them – Brown, Ford and Felton – share a legacy as former North Carolina point guards.
Brown and Ford frequently tease Felton that the scrutiny he hears from them is a fraction – in expectation and tone – of what they heard from Dean Smith.
“One time (Tuesday) he wanted me to run a certain play and I was running something else. He got on me for that,” Felton said. “He knows I can play basketball. He just wants me thinking it a little more.”
That's requisite to being Brown's conduit on the court. When Felton screws up, it's his fault and when someone else screws up, it becomes his fault.
“If they're not in the right spot, I need to get them in the right spot. A (layman) might say, ‘Dang, that's not right!' ” that he takes the blame, Felton explained.
“But it is – I'm the point guard, and if they're not in the right spot, I get yelled at.”