Augustin Proved Doubters Wrong Last Season and Expects to do Same in 2019-20
ORLANDO – With public doubts swirling prior to last season about his abilities as the Orlando Magic’s full-time starting point guard, D.J. Augustin went out and authored the finest all-around performance of his career.
With there being durability concerns about the 6-foot, 183-pounder on the wrong side of 30, Augustin attended yoga classes, consulted with experts in the area of body mechanics and focused on his nutrition in order to get himself into the best shape he’s ever been in.
And with Markelle Fultz now in camp and commanding much of the preseason buzz around the Magic, Augustin simply went about his business of being the consummate professional – both on and off the floor – while continuing to be a driving force for Orlando.
All of it, you see, is nothing new to Augustin, who has always considered himself to be something of a ``survivor’’ with how he has overcome various obstacles and doubts while sticking in the NBA for 11 seasons.
``My career has been like that every year,’’ said Augustin, whose 12th NBA season starts on Wednesday when the Magic face the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Amway Center (7 p.m., TV: Fox Sports Florida).
``We’re a team and we’re all together, but individually we’re all fighting and competing for jobs,’’ added Augustin, referring to the Magic’s stable of point guards. ``We all have families and I have a family, and even though Mike (Carter-Williams) and Markelle (Fultz) are my teammates, I’m still fighting every day in practice to keep my job, stay on this team and stay in the NBA. Every day of my career has been a fight for me.’’
Augustin’s fight was on display all throughout last season when his strong play, solid health and dependability played major roles in Orlando reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2012. After averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 42.1 percent from 3-point range, Augustin made the Magic’s biggest shot of the season in a Game 1 defeat of the Toronto Raptors.
After working to get the matchup he wanted, Augustin drilled a 3-pointer over center Marc Gasol to lift the Magic to what proved to be their lone postseason victory against the eventual champions. As it turns out, that moment proved to be the perfect capper on a season that was satisfying to Augustin on so many levels.
``That was my biggest thing – being healthy – because I think I missed just one game all season,’’ remembered Augustin, who narrowly missed playing in all 82 games for just the second time in his career. ``Just being healthy, not getting injured and feeling well enough every game to play at a high level, that was important for me. Now, I’m just trying to do the same thing this year. That’s my job … not to score (more than usual) and try to be something I’m not, but be consistent for this team and be a leader.’’
The Magic are well aware now that they can completely count on the 31-year-old Augustin to run the team from the point, arguably the deepest and most talented position in the NBA. That was something that head coach Steve Clifford was made aware of prior to last season even beginning after he was tipped off by a couple of head coaches from Augustin’s past.
``To find out more about the players you talk to people that you know and the two people with (Augustin) that I spoke to were Stan (Van Gundy) and (Tom Thibodeau),’’ said Clifford, referring to two of the coaches that Augustin has played for while bouncing around with eight NBA teams. ``They both said the same thing: `You’re going to love him, you’ll never have to worry about him, he practices every day, he’s a really good player and he’s great for the team.’ And that’s what he is.’’
Augustin is so great for the Magic that the team is trying to get creative in finding ways to use him – all while continuing to monitor his minutes so that he stays strong and healthy over the course of the marathon-like, 82-game regular season. Clifford is hopeful that he can play the electrifying Fultz – the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft who has recovered from the shoulder injury that sidetracked his first two seasons – along with Augustin to potentially get more open 3-point shots for the latter. Augustin, who prides himself on taking good shots, ranked 12thin the NBA in 3-point percentage last season.
In addition to serving as a mentor for Fultz, Augustin is excited about the prospects of potentially playing alongside the dynamic, young point guard.
``We can both handle the ball, run pick-and-rolls and we’re both smart players,’’ said Augustin, who also tied for 12thin the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.33:1) last season. ``Having us both out there as playmakers makes it easier for other guys, and we also can get each other open shots to get things going. It’s fun to be out there with (Fultz) and he looks great.’’
Seeing the spry, 21-year-old Fultz reminds Augustin of a time back in 2008 when he was the No. 9 overall draft pick by the then-Charlotte Bobcats and saddled with high expectations. Early in Augustin’s career, he played for Charlotte, Indiana, Toronto, Chicago, Detroit, Oklahoma City and Denver before finally finding a home in Orlando, where he’s about to start his fourth season in the Magic’s backcourt. Looking back on how his career has twisted, turned and evolved, Augustin thinks he’s actually a better player now than he was when he was in his 20s.
``I don’t know how to really say it, but I just feel like I know the game so well now,’’ Augustin said. ``Whatever my mind thinks, my body follows. I wish I knew then what I know now, but that’s just a part of growing and getting better. Mentally, I just feel like I know the game so well and it comes to me naturally on the court.’’
What also comes naturally now to Augustin is how he treats his body off the court as well. ``Keeping up with these younger guys,’’ as Augustin puts it, requires him to spend more time working on his flexibility and muscles instead of his game in the offseason. During the season, Augustin wears thigh and rib pads under his uniform to help with the hits that he regularly takes while getting screened by centers often weighing 100 pounds or more than him. All of it has helped him prolong a career still operating at a high level.
``My (offseason plan) is a little different now that I’m a little older. I take things slower in the beginning (of the offseason) and then I turn it up at the end,’’ Augustin said. ``I got a lot of body work done, massages, body mechanics and range-of-motion stuff in. And I really focused on my nutrition, yoga and stuff like that. I stayed out of the gym and I didn’t touch a ball until almost the end of July.
``So, really, it was just about focusing on my body,’’ Augustin added. ``When I was younger, I’d go straight into the gym (at the end of the regular season) and spend two hours on the court daily and lift weights, and by the time the season started I’d be beat up. It’s about changing it up, learning as I go and as I’m getting older, I know what my body needs.’’
If Augustin ever needs a reminder that he’s an NBA ``survivor,’’ all he has to do is pull up names of the point guards who were expected to get more out of their NBA careers than he has. Point guards such as O.J. Mayo, Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Eric Maynor, Toney Douglas, Jimmer Fredette, Nolan Smith, Norris Cole, Kendall Marshall, Tony Wroten, Tyler Ennis, Tyus Jones, Wade Baldwin and former Magic guard Jerian Grant were either drafted before or after Augustin, and all of them failed to stick in the NBA as long as Orlando’s steady leader has.
``All I do is look back at the guys who I came into the league with, or who came in after me, and a lot of them aren’t even in the league anymore,’’ Augustin noted. ``It’s a blessing and it just shows me that hard work pays off. I’m just going to continue to do those things until I can’t play anymore.’’
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