Augustin Excited to be Key Cog for Magic

Veteran point guard embracing expanded role in Orlando
by John Denton

ORLANDO – To some it might seem like a small thing, but to Orlando Magic point guard D.J. Augustin and his family of five, being in the same city and in the same home for another year is a comfort that they don’t take for granted.

Augustin’s wife, Brandy, has started making friends in their suburban Orlando neighborhood and doing the work in the community that she wasn’t able to do in the past because the family was always on the move due to the nature of the beast in the NBA. Six-year-old Kailey, the family’s oldest child, is in first grade and is making lots of friends thanks to attending the same school for a second straight year. Trey and Chase, 4 and 2 years old respectively, eagerly anticipate their father’s arrival back home from practice each day so that they play ball in the first house they’ve ever lived in for consecutive years.

Augustin, 30, has played for eight NBA franchises throughout his 10-year NBA career, but he seems to have finally found a home in Orlando. Not only is he headed into his third consecutive season with the Magic, but he is projected as the team’s starting point guard in the season ahead. All of it – being given a chance to play big minutes and stay in Orlando three straight years after bouncing all around the NBA – has Augustin feeling like a truly blessed man.

``I was telling somebody on the team about this the other day,’’ said Augustin, who learned plenty about moving around at a young age when his family was forced to vacate New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and relocate in Houston. ``When I was younger, and I was moving around a lot (in the NBA), it was hard, but not as hard because the kids were little. But now that my kids are older, and my daughter has her friends, it would be really hard to move. It’s part of the business, but it’s just a blessing to be going into my third year here and hopefully I can be here as long as possible.

``Basically, it just comes down to you performing. If you perform well, you’ve got a better chance of staying in that city,’’ Augustin added. ``At the same time, sometimes you can perform well and get traded anyway. The NBA is a business and it’s the life that we chose, but it’s just a blessing that I am here for a third straight year.’’

Orlando’s front office believed in Augustin enough last season to trade incumbent starter Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns. And after Augustin finished last season on a shooting tear, the franchise stuck with him as the starter going into this season. The Magic did trade for long-armed guard Jerian Grant and sign free agent Isaiah Briscoe, but the team will likely feature Augustin in crunch time of games this season. New Magic head coach Steve Clifford is just fine with that because he knows that he can count on the 11-year veteran to be prepared and consistent throughout the NBA’s long season.

``D.J. just gets it,’’ Clifford said of Augustin, who had 12 points, six assists and three 3-pointers in Monday’s exhibition loss in Philadelphia. ``D.J. is detailed. D.J. is skilled. D.J. knows how he has to play. He understands where his teammates need the ball in order to play well. He’s a pro guard, a pro point guard.’’

Added Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman: ``D.J. is an unbelievable person. He’s detailed. He’s work-oriented. He’s team-first. He’s just the definition of ‘professional.’ So before you even start the conversation, he’s established trust. Coaches trust him. Staff trust him. Players trust him. So, you begin there. I think D.J. had a season that kind of went under the radar last year.’’

While Augustin’s overall numbers weren’t eye-popping last season – he averaged 10.2 points and 3.8 assists in 75 games – he played at an elite level after the Magic dealt Payton and made him the starter. In the 25 games after the break for the NBA All-Star Game, Augustin averaged 12.8 points, 5.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds while shooting a stellar percentages from the floor (48.9 percent) and 3-point line (45.3 percent). That 45.3 percent from 3-point range ranked first all the NBA among point guards (minimum 100 attempts) and third among all players (trailing only Washington’s Otto Porter and Detroit’s Anthony Tolliver) after the all-star break.

Another very telling statistic: Among all NBA players who took at least 115 pull-up 3-point shots last season, Augustin ranked fourth at 40.2 percent. The only players to rank ahead of him were Golden State’s Stephen Curry (41.1 percent), Boston’s Kyrie Irving (40.6 percent) and Memphis/Indiana’s Tyreke Evans (40.5 percent).

The strong sentiment expressed by Clifford and Weltman was echoed by Magic shooting guard Evan Fournier, who felt the need to come to the aid of his teammate after some fans questioned Orlando’s decision to head into the season with Augustin as its starter.

``People act like D.J. is a bust or is not good,’’ Fournier said candidly. ``It’s just disrespectful to say that. The guy is an 11-year veteran, knows how to play, had great seasons in this league, is a great shooter and is a great teammate. I love to play with D.J. We all do. We have confidence in him. He’s going to do good for us, period.’’

Augustin, who is listed at 6-feet tall and 183 pounds even though both numbers might be inflated, is used to NBA types and fans doubting him. That’s a big reason why he’s bounced around the NBA while playing for the Bobcats/Hornets (2008-12), Pacers (2012-13), Raptors (2013), Bulls (2013-14), Pistons (2014-15), Thunder (2014-16), Nuggets (2016) and Magic (2016-19). He’s been waived in the middle of a season (by Toronto), traded by a team midseason (by Detroit) and asked for a trade midseason (by Oklahoma City). He takes the questions about his abilities in stride and points to his NBA resume for his rebuttal.

Cracked Augustin: ``I’ve had doubters my whole life. I’m 5-11. Eleven years in the NBA, so I don’t listen to it, obviously.’’

Landing in Orlando via a long-term, free-agent contract has been a blessing for both Augustin’s game and his family. Possibly because he was leery of getting traded again, the Augustin family rented a home during his first year in Orlando. They have since settled into a new place of their own and couldn’t be happier heading into this NBA season.

``We’re going into our second year in the house that we have now, and we love it,’’ he said. ``It’s been great because we’ve been able to get furniture, enjoy the same place and have family come over. It’s just a different feeling when you are settled, and you are in the same city for a long time. It means a lot, not only for my kids, but also for my wife. She’s meeting friends and we’re doing things in the community. Those are things that we weren’t necessarily able to do in the past because we were moving around so much.’’

Though the Magic suffered through another painful season last year, Augustin was the team’s starter at point guard for much of the stellar 6-2 start. Things didn’t start to fall apart until Augustin strained a hamstring in early November in Memphis. If he can stay healthy and shoot the ball like he did late last season, Augustin feels the Magic have a legitimate shot of reaching the playoffs in the wide-open Eastern Conference. If he can get the Magic back into the playoffs, it will likely allow him to stay in the city where he and his family proudly call home.

``I think the playoffs is everybody’s goal from the beginning,’’ Augustin said. ``So, it’s not too high. That’s our goal.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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