D.J. Augustin Makes Return vs. Jazz
By John Denton
Nov. 18, 2017
ORLANDO – With the NBA’s ``all-access’’ cameras rolling during Friday’s practice, D.J. Augustin showed why the Orlando Magic are so excited about his return to action and good health.
As the ball swung around the perimeter, it eventually found Augustin – who was in his first practice back after missing the previous two weeks with a strained left hamstring – in the corner. Knowing that Augustin is one of the team’s best 3-point shooters, Magic center Nikola Vucevic had to run at the guard to deter a shot. Augustin dribbled once with his left hand toward the middle of the floor to attract the attention of Elfrid Payton and then he effortlessly whipped a no-look pass to a cutting Jonathon Simmons for a highlight-worthy layup.
Augustin’s combination of long-range shooting and selfless passing will be a welcomed return to a Magic team that has missed him in the two weeks he’s been out of action. Augustin was active on Saturday night when Orlando faced Utah.
``D.J. was playing at a high level on both ends of the floor and in multiple ways offensively,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``Beside his shooting, his playmaking and organizing the team – he was playing at a much higher level than he was last season. We’ve missed him.’’
Augustin filled in brilliantly for an injured Payton from Oct. 20 to Nov. 1, guiding the Magic to a 6-2 start and some eye-popping scoring and 3-point shooting numbers. Augustin injured his hamstring midway through the defeat of the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 1, and the Magic mostly struggled after that, going 2-5 before Saturday’s game against the Utah Jazz. Three of those games – all losses – came with both Payton and Augustin out, leaving Shelvin Mack as the team’s only true point guard.
The Magic were plenty excited about having Augustin back on Saturday to pair with Payton as a one/two punch to run the offense and keep the pace high. Whereas Payton is more of a driver, Payton provides space with his threat of the 3-point shot.
``D.J.’s been a really good player for this season and he played great when E.P. went out,’’ Vucevic said. ``He came into that starting role and played well. He does give us a different dynamic and think we have more spacing with his shooting and all of that. It’s good to have him back.’’
Added Magic forward Aaron Gordon: ``D.J.’s a helluva shooter, but it will take him some time because he’s been out a couple of weeks. The speed of the game is really fast and I don’t care who you are – if you’ve been out a couple of days it takes you a second to get it back. But he’ll be right back in the swing of thing and knocking down threes.’’
WATCHING A.G.: The fact that Aaron Gordon came into Saturday’s game averaging career highs in scoring (17.8), rebounding (7.7), assists (2.2), shooting (52.8 percent) and 3-point accuracy (50 percent) had to leave the Utah Jazz a bit wistful.
In the 2014 NBA Draft, Utah had the fifth overall pick and it twice worked out Gordon. The Jazz had intentions to select the 6-foot-9 forward with the fifth overall pick, but the Magic ruined those plans by snagging Gordon at fourth overall.
Utah instead selected point guard Dante Exum, who has played in just 148 games in the past four years because of several injuries. Gordon, meanwhile, has seen his scoring average rise four straight seasons.
``It shows when young players come into the league it takes time,’’ Utah coach Quinn Snyder said. ``I’m close with (Magic assistant coach) Chad Forcier and he’s told me before how hard Aaron is working and how excited (head coach) Frank (Vogel) is about him. He came in and worked out for us and he’s someone I remembered because he was impressive as a player and a talent, but also as a person. Anytime you see a guy work hard and attain something, you are happy for him. He’s done a heck of a job.’’
GIVING BACK TO THOSE IN NEED: Even though Orlando will be playing on the road over the Thanksgiving holiday, the team will continue one of Central Florida’s greatest traditions when the Magic organization buys and feeds Thanksgiving breakfast to the residents at the Coalition for the Homeless on Thursday.
As part of the NBA Cares Season of Giving, the Magic will be working with the Coalition of the Homeless on Thanksgiving morning for a 25th consecutive year. Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw and team employees will attend the event and serve breakfast to the residents of the Coalition. The Magic will also host a carnival for the nearly 700 residents of the Coalition.
Tomorrow (Sunday), veteran guard Arron Afflalo, Magic employees and representatives from Amway Corporation will serve Thanksgiving meals to 450 underserved families from the Central Florida area at the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center. The meals will include turkey, stuffing, gravy, green beans, corn and dessert.
On Friday, guards Terrence Ross and Shelvin Mack, Alex Martins and a host of Magic season-ticket holders worked with famed local chef Kevin Fonzo to craft a meal that was served to those staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
UP NEXT: Orlando’s home game on Monday will have a bit of extra importance as it will be the final one at the Amway Center until Nov. 29.
Monday’s showdown against the Indiana Pacers will have significance since the Magic will hit the road soon after for a difficult four-game road trip over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Magic also have a score to settle with Indiana after the Pacers whipped them four times last season. Not only that, Indiana won the four games against Orlando by an average margin of 16.7 points. Over the past three seasons, Indiana has won 11 of the 12 meetings against Orlando.
After the game against Indiana, the Magic will hit the road on Tuesday for another lengthy trip for games in Minnesota (Wednesday), Boston (Friday), Philadelphia (Saturday) and Indiana (Nov. 27).
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.