Just as Chris Paul is trying to do New Orleans proud, so is fellow point guard D.J. Augustin.
The emerging rookie, a New Orleans native who was forced out of the city by Hurricane Katrina, plays his first NBA game in his hometown Wednesday when the Charlotte Bobcats take on Paul and the Hornets.
Augustin was born in New Orleans and was a standout high school player there before his family fled to Houston in August 2005 with the threat of Katrina looming. He spent his senior year at a Houston area high school before starring at the University of Texas.
"Houston is a home to me now," Augustin said during this year's NCAA tournament. "But New Orleans will always be my home in my heart."
The ninth overall pick in this year's draft has developed into a key contributor for the Bobcats (7-14). He's averaged 15.8 points and 4.6 assists over the last 12 games while shooting 50.9 percent (28-of-55) from 3-point range.
Augustin was only in his fifth game as a professional the first time he played against Paul, the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2005-06 when Augustin was a high school senior. Paul had 20 points and 10 assists in that matchup at Charlotte on Nov. 7, while Augustin - in about half as much playing time - had 11 points and four assists to help the Bobcats win 92-89.
Paul has been superb again this season, averaging 20.6 points and a league-leading 11.8 assists after topping the NBA with 11.6 per game as the 2007-08 MVP runner-up. His 14 double-doubles rank second in the league to Orlando's Dwight Howard, and are at least twice as many as any other guard in the league.
His teammates have stepped up more recently as New Orleans (11-6) has turned things around, going 6-1 after losing five of seven.
"We're starting to push each other a little bit more and we're starting to demand a bit more from each other," Paul said. "We're not settling for less and we're not trying to wait until late in the season to start jelling. We're trying to build our identity right now."
Teammate Peja Stojakovic has at least 20 points in three consecutive games, going 13-of-21 from 3-point range. He's scored in double figures in seven straight after failing to do so four times during the Hornets' 2-5 slump.
Stojakovic was 5-of-7 from beyond the arc Saturday and New Orleans finished 11-of-20 in a 106-87 win over Memphis. Paul had 21 points and 11 assists as the Hornets posted their third straight home win by double digits.
The Bobcats have a 1-6 road record, but really haven't played too badly. None of the last five road losses have been by more than seven points and the win came in Indiana, which already has home victories over reigning conference champions Boston and Los Angeles.
However, Charlotte has lost three in a row overall, including 100-96 in Miami on Monday. Jason Richardson led the Bobcats with 24 points, but missed two free throws that would have tied the game with 32.3 seconds remaining.
"We played well enough to win," Charlotte coach Larry Brown said. "We missed a layup, some free throws, tough things happened."
The Bobcats were missing second-leading scorer Gerald Wallace, who was in Alabama following the death of his grandmother, and it appears unlikely he will return for this game.
Charlotte is 3-6 in this series and has lost all four road games, though two of them were in Oklahoma City after the Hornets had to relocate due to Katrina.
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