Augustin, Bulls Cozy Up In Marriage Of Point-Guard Necessity


VIDEO: D.J. Augustin misses the jumper but intercepts the pass and feeds Luol Deng for the layup

CHICAGO – Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls, supernova talent from the city’s South Side and NBA franchise in search of its 1990s championship pedigree again, is a match made in heaven (with a couple of recent hellish turns).

D.J. Augustin and the Bulls? Strictly a marriage of necessity.

But when someone needs someone to pick up the kids or the dry cleaning, and both someones need each other to get through a chilly winter night, those types of unions – borne of desperation – can be better than nothing.

Which is what Augustin and the Bulls essentially had a couple of weeks ago.

Augustin – the Texas point guard drafted by Charlotte eight spots after Rose in 2008 but worlds apart in NBA impact and arc – had been cut loose by the Toronto Raptors earlier this month in a post-Rudy Gay trade roster shakeout.

But it wasn’t just numbers; Augustin hadn’t played in nine of Toronto’s previous 12 games, sliding down and finally off the team’s depth chart. On the heels of an unsatisfying 2012-13 season as Indiana’s backup to George Hill – a role for which the Pacers sought out former Bull C.J. Watson – it seemed as if Augustin’s career might be Euro-bound or worse.

Then there were the Bulls, losing Rose to a season-ending injury for the second time in 19 months. Veteran Kirk Hinrich got thrust into Rose’s spot in late November but after 10 NBA seasons, Hinrich is only duct tape-and-baling wire durable, a race car in need of trainers-room pit stops every other lap or so.

That left Marquis Teague, little-used as a rookie last season and underwhelming enough lately to merit a redshirted sophomore year as well. And Mike James, 38, an insurance player exposed as inadequate even as a catastrophic policy.

So the Bulls turned to Augustin, the best of whatever bunch was available on the street or in the D-League. He played the night he arrived, logging 12 minutes and doing little else against Milwaukee, and in the five games since. In the past four, Augustin has started three and averaged 37.6 minutes, 13.8 points and 8.0 assists, while shooting 44.2 percent.

His career stats prior to Chicago: 24.1, 9.4, 3.9 and 39.9 percent. Augustin had 18 points and 10 assists, his first double-double since April 2012, to help the 10-16 Bulls beat Cleveland at United Center and snap a four-game losing streak (Kyrie Irving had 14 and 5).

“This is good for him but it’s good for us. We both need each other,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “When you look at his entire career, his first two years in the league were terrific. Even last year, I thought he had some very good moments in the playoffs.

“He’s been a little up-and-down. Sometimes that’s not uncommon for a young player. But you can see that he has a lot of confidence. I like his skill set, that he can run a pick-and-roll, he can shoot, he can make plays. And I like the way he’s competing defensively. Each game, you can see he’s making a conscious effort to do the right things.”

All those things Thibodeau listed, other coaches with other teams eventually found lacking in Augustin. Their focus shifted to the negatives: Smallish, struggling to defend his position, shooting 36.5 percent since 2010-11.

But the Bulls were beggars, not choosers, when they scooped up Augustin after he cleared waivers. The players in their locker room were conditioned to follow their point guard’s lead. To them, in the moment of Rose’s latest knee injury, Augustin was the cavalry riding over the hill and they’re treating him as such.

“That’s an important leadership quality also,” Thibodeau said. “When you look at your point guard, you’re looking for someone who can unite and inspire your team. And I think he’s doing that with our guys.”

Augustin did that with Charlotte, under Larry Brown, for a couple of years, and then he didn’t. The way his play and minutes went with Indiana and Toronto, there wasn’t much uniting and inspiring going on when he took the court.

Now that he’s with his fourth team in three years, Augustin – in a puny sample size, admittedly – might be praying to Chauncey Billups, the NBA’s patron saint of early-career knockaround point guards, and hoping this run with the Bulls continues.

“I know how the NBA is,” Augustin said late Saturday, at the end of his from-disposable-to-indispensable week. “It’s a business. … You never know what can happen. The situation in Toronto, I didn’t get down on myself and I kept working hard and came here, and I’ve been playing a lot. I think if I got down on myself, I wouldn’t have been ready to play.”

There’s no way to get ready for 46 minutes, Augustin’s workload against Cleveland, other than gutting them out. The point guard has done extra work in the gym and with video, familiarizing himself with Chicago’s plays and his teammates’ tendencies. The tough head coach with the grind-it-out mentality Augustin saw as an opponent, but now he appreciates all that from the inside.

Beats the alternative, too. Everyone wants to be wanted, particularly around the holidays.

“We’re a team,” Augustin said of his latest hoops home. “Every night we go out and fight as a team. They’ve been embracing me pretty well here. I love it, I love all my teammates, I love Coach Thibodeau. You know, I love it here.”

19 Comments

  1. okc2014 says:

    Nate Robinson is basically playing in Denver for NBA’s minimum wage. He got screwed too!!!

  2. Tolits says:

    With this current lineup, it’s a miracle if they garner 8th spot. Here we are rejoicing the team’s win against one of the worst teams in the NBA. We need shooters who can produce points every game. When will these players play the way they played today? after another 5 losses? Or maybe it’s time to change the Bull’s offense? 28th in the league means their offense is not working.

  3. The One says:

    It doesn’t really matter. The Bulls most likely won’t even make the playoffs, or if they do, they will they may sneak in at 8th or 7th seed. They were mediocre at best before Jordan, and will be mediocre at best after Jordan.

    • Pakyaw says:

      Bulls will make playoffs by default, just like the bucks last season , below .500 team made playoffs.. East is weak..

  4. and then says:

    and then the bulls will just waive/trade him the next offseason! thats something …. not new

  5. chicagofan231 says:

    When Rose returns,they will be a good team!

  6. Brendan says:

    I’ve liked dj for a while and was wondering were he had been this year. I feel like he is a player who doesn’t perform as well under his reserve role however is to inconsistent to be a starter as some games looking at the box score it’s like he wasn’t even on the floor. I watched a lot of Indiana basketball last year and It was obvious to tell he was having troubles finding his rhythm with there team and with the pacers expectations last year combined with the way there offense plays (not really ran through point) I really think it was not a good situation for him and I almost feel like his team resented his minutes sometimes high turnover rate plus low minutes doesn’t exactly enspire a team from a reserve standpoint. though there were flashes of greatness. I really hope this situation works out well for him but im not to sure just happy bulls squashed that loose streack. oh and go clippers.

  7. Allen H. says:

    DJ was one of the best players in college and him getting drafted by the Bobcats hurt his career. He’s definitely a keeper and should remain the starter so Kirk Hinrich can be what he was suppose to be which is the back up PG.

  8. Art says:

    People who think that Rose will back to his MVP level are delusional. He should play next year 18-20 min as SG from the bench. It looks like that Augustin can be a backup PG for years but it’s too early to talk about him.

    Bulls 1st priority is a starting PG and they should find him in the draft (Smart could be so good for them).
    Another option is to acquire Dragic using Bobcats pick but it’s not easy of course.
    2nd priority is to re-sign Deng (a must), then – bring Mirotic & find reliable back-up for Noah.

  9. dustydreamnz says:

    He’s got a great attitude and his play has been consistent for the Bulls. Underrated player.

  10. Elli P says:

    DJ is nice, but I would love to see Sebastian Telfair join us when the China Leage is over.

  11. Kevin says:

    We’ve got us a new Spark-plug! 😅😅😆

  12. go bulls says:

    nice pick up

  13. Knight in Shining Armor says:

    Who needs Rose? Just kidding! Nice pick up and Thibs will be riding him like a secretariat.

  14. Boston Fan says:

    and when derick rose get healthy they’ll screw him over just like they did nate robinson. the guy alongside jimmy butler who stopped the heat streek and saved them in the playoffs against the nets. DJ is a good point with alot of things to learn and alot of things to offer i would hate to see him get screwed over but thats how the cookie crumbles

    • Kevin says:

      I disagree, I think he’s a keeper in the long run & he’s more efficient than Nate!

    • Koji says:

      They didn’t screw him over, they were expecting rose to be healthy and Kirk was under contract. Plus Nate was asking for quite a bit.

    • Antonio says:

      Bulls Organization want to keep nate rabinson who the signed for verteran minimum at 1Mil per season, that was a bargain or steal at that price for his service, he out performed his contract with the Bulls… Bulls could not afford to keep Nate Robinson even if they wanted to keep him because he’s worth 14Mil which go’s against there salery cap… The Bulls Salery cap is too high thats what prevented themm from keeping C.J. Watson, Memit Okur, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver the original Bench Mob that got them to eastern confrence finals in the fist place and every year they are looking for replacement players, and whay is that you ask, because mojority of there money is Rapped up in Carlos booser, and Luol deng, and Jokin Noah RIP Hamilton….

      Bulls Need 2 Superstars and a bunch of specialty player along with role player to get back on top and a coach who knows how to utilize his team