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Augustin Always Willing to Sacrifice Body to Help Team Win

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

MEXICO CITY – With the naked eye, it’s easy to see that the 6-foot (maybe), 183-pound point guard D.J. Augustin is the tiniest player out on the floor and seemingly always at a size disadvantage.

With a bit of closer inspection, one would learn that the Orlando Magic veteran guard actually isn’t even as big as he looks out on the court during games because of what he’s wearing under his uniform.

``I wear a lot of pads now under my uniform – padded tights, the padded shirts underneath to help with all the pain,’’ Augustin said. ``Hip pads, all of that, I have all of that going on body-wise.’’

Augustin, who is in his 11th NBA season, needs that kind of padding to survive plays like the critical one that he made on Thursday to rescue the Magic. With the score tied at 91, Augustin ignored all of the action going on around him and stepped in front of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Kris Dunn to draw a charge that returned possession to the Magic with 33 seconds to play.

From there, Orlando ultimately got the ball to standout center Nikola Vucevic, who buried a 15-foot jump shot that provided the go-ahead points for the Magic’s 97-91 defeat of Chicago. Vucevic, who scored 10 of his game-high 26 points in the decisive fourth quarter, got much of the credit for the victory, but on second glance the center marveled at the gritty work of Augustin the possession prior.

``I didn’t think about it until after the game, but that was a huge play for (Augustin) to do that,’’ said Vucevic, whose Magic (13-15) face the Utah Jazz (14-15) on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET in the second game of the NBA Mexico City Games 2018. ``The way that (the Bulls) ran the play, we were stretched out on the weak side and I saw it late and wouldn’t have gotten there on time (to contest Dunn). So what D.J. did was a huge play. It gave us a chance to go back down and score.

``It was a huge play from D.J. and it’s why he’s a great player for us,’’ the center added. ``He’s a true pro who comes in every day and does everything that he needs to do. You know what you’re going to get from him, he’s a great team player and I’m happy he’s on my team.’’

Outside of Vucevic, the 31-year-old Augustin might be the Magic’s most indispensable player because of all the things that he does for the squad. In addition to averaging 10.3 points and a team-high 5.0 assists a game, he ranks first in the NBA among starting point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.15:1). Also, he ranks 12th in the league in free throw percentage (88.7 percent), 15th in 3-point accuracy (a team-best 43.3 percent) and 24th in assists (5.0).

``He’s a tough guy, man, and he wants to win,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford said. ``He’s played in so many different situations and he’s highly, highly competitive.’’

The concern, of course, is that the Magic’s heavy reliance on Augustin could prove as a negative if a player of his sleight build can’t hold up over the NBA’s marathon-like 82-game schedule. He is averaging 27.3 minutes a night – the most Augustin has played since 2013-14 when he was with the Bulls. The veteran said he isn’t just savvy on the court; his experience extends to the training room where he knows how to keep his small, but strong body in shape for NBA basketball.

``It’s a grind and every morning after the game you feel the pain,’’ Augustin said. ``It’s just a matter of doing the little things – stretching, cold tub and whatever it takes. I’ve been doing it long enough to know that I have to continue to do those things to play at a high level.’’

The charge that Augustin took on Thursday was his first of the season. Guard Jonathon Simmons actually leads the Magic in charges drawn with three. Even though Augustin has just the single charge all season, he was already well aware on Friday that Toronto Raptors’ guard Kyle Lowry is tied for first in the NBA in charges taken with 13. Augustin also knows that it takes lots of guts to step in front of some of the NBA’s biggest players and give your body up for a charge.

``It definitely takes heart, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do on the court to sacrifice for your teammates to get a win. I try to do that every night,’’ he said. ``I knew that play (Dunn driving late on Thursday) was coming. I didn’t know he was going to drive away to the left, but once I felt his weight leaning toward me and feeling him push off, I just went with it. It was just anticipation.

``I don’t really worry about the pain,’’ Augustin added. ``I worry about that the next day. You’ve got to have heart to do it.’’
Augustin considers himself something of an NBA survivor what with him lasting 11 seasons at roughly 5 foot, 10 inches tall. He’s heard the whispers about his lack of size and his abilities throughout his career – even from Magic fans prior to this season when the franchise chose to stick with him as the starter.

Those kinds of things don’t hurt him, Augustin said. What does hurt him are the screens that he gets hit with about 50 times a game. With the Magic facing Utah on Saturday, Augustin knows going in that 7-foot-1, 245-pound center Rudy Gobert and 6-foot-10, 265-pound power forward Derrick Favors will be drilling him with screens all night.

But, as Augustin pointed out, when you’ve survived picks being set by forwards such as Kevin Garnett, you can survive anything. Rest assured, he’ll be wearing pads all over his body to try and protect himself from the punishment those big men dish out.

``I’ll take it back to K.G. (Kevin Garnett) when I played against him when he was playing for the Celtics and Brooklyn,’’ Augustin said. ``He set the worst picks. He used to hit you hard and (with) sharp (elbows).

``I usually get the most pain from getting hit on pick-and-rolls. I’m usually in three pick-and-rolls per possession,’’ Augustin added. ``(On Thursday night), I got hit a few times from the (Chicago) rookie, Wendell Carter, he hit me a few times and they called offensive fouls from that. But pick-and-rolls are the most painful for me.

``Hips, quads, ribs and butt – I have pads for all those areas.’’

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