NBA Journey: D.J. Augustin
By John Denton
Jan. 4, 2018
ORLANDO – In barber shops, chatrooms, trade simulators and talk-radio banter, NBA players are often viewed as little more than commodities who can easily be waived, traded or flipped to other teams on a whim.
In reality, however, they are often every-day people with families, mortgage payments and vexing concerns about stability just like the fans who cheer for them.
Take, for example, Orlando Magic point guard D.J. Augustin, who has been married to wife, Brandy, since 2012, and he’s the devoted father to daughter Kailey (five years old), son Trey (three years old) and son Chase (one year old).
Augustin, 30, has been fortunate enough to carve out a 10-year NBA career as a back-up point guard and he is in the second of a four-year contract with the Magic. Along the way, however, there have been plenty of bumps in the road where Augustin has had to pick up everything in a moment’s notice, uproot his tight-knit family from where they were living and head to another city. Not only has he played for eight different teams, he’s been celebrated, renounced, waived and twice traded midseason along this crazy journey through pro basketball.
Nothing, though, compares quite to what Augustin had to endure came back in 2013 when he was waived and signed by another NBA team within a four-day period.
``The hardest moment for both me and my wife was Toronto because she was pregnant and we had our older daughter too and I had to leave immediately to go to Chicago,’’ Augustin recalled on Thursday. ``I had to leave them in another country, Canada, she’s pregnant and she’s got my daughter and no family or help around. That made it hard for me to focus on what I needed to do knowing what she was going through, but we made it somehow.’’
It wasn’t until July of 2016 – eight years after he was selected ninth overall in the NBA Draft – did Augustin finally land the first semblance of security in his career. When the Magic awarded him a lucrative four-year contract, it finally meant the Augustin family could plant some roots in Central Florida. Augustin, who is averaging 8.1 points and 2.9 assists a game this season, has enjoyed his time in Orlando, but reality has a way of reminding that everything can change in an instant in the NBA. With the Magic in the midst of another skid – they have dropped 12 of the last 13 games after falling to Houston on Wednesday – Augustin knows that changes could come to uproot his family once again.
``It felt so good signing with the Magic,’’ he said. ``Being tired of moving around and being stable for once in your career, it feels good. My wife felt good about it and my family did, too. But at the same time, it’s still a business and there are no guarantees here. You could be traded tomorrow and anything could happen. So, I don’t take that lightly or take that for granted because I’ve already been in every situation you can be in the NBA and I feel like I know how to handle all situations.’’
ON THE MOVE EARLY ON
Darryl Gerard Augustin Jr., a native of New Orleans who was named after his father and became D.J. when Darryl Jr. became too cumbersome and confusing to pronounce, had a jarring prep for what his nomad NBA career might amount to when Hurricane Katrina bore down on Louisiana in 2005. Prior to the storm hitting New Orleans, Augustin’s family fled New Orleans for Houston. As it turns out, that was a good thing as their home and most of their possessions were destroyed my rising floodwaters.
Augustin, who had led Brother Martin High School in New Orleans to two state titles prior to the devastating storm, ended up graduating from Hightower High School in Missouri City, Texas – his family’s new home. To this day, through the high school move and his many travels in the NBA, D.J. still calls Houston home. The city that was so welcoming to him and his family while running from Hurricane Katrina has served as a beacon of stability as he’s been forced to be on the move for nearly 13 years.
``New Orleans is always going to be my home, where I was born and raised and I grew up there for 18 years before Katrina, but I look at Houston – when I say `I’m going home’ that’s what I think of – because Houston is where I live and where my family is,’’ said Augustin, who later became a college basketball star at the University of Texas. ``It’s my second home.’’
RECOUNTING THE JOURNEY
Augustin spent some time with OrlandoMagic.com after practice on Thursday to relive his arduous, sometimes taxing and trying journey throughout the NBA. This is the path that Augustin and his family have had to take via many of his own words:
- Picked ninth overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Bobcats: ``Every basketball player wants to be in the NBA and ever since I was four years old and picked up a basketball I wanted to be in the NBA. To finally be there, in the green room on draft night and around all the stuff that I saw on TV while growing up, it was surreal to me.
``Even being the ninth pick, you don’t even understand it until it’s over. I remember meeting David Stern, shaking his hand, getting the hat, walking across (the stage) and kissing my family. It really was a surreal moment and I didn’t really understand it until years later. Now that I’m older, I can say, `Dang, I was the ninth pick in the draft and what a great moment it was.’ But I worked hard to get there.’’
- 2008-09 through 2011-12, Charlotte Bobcats: ``I was there for four up-and-down years and we lost a lot my first two years, we made it to the playoffs my third year and I was starting in my fourth year,’’ said Augustin, who rented an apartment his first two NBA seasons and he was a homeowner over his final two years in Charlotte.
On June 29, 2012, the Bobcats tendered a contract offer to Augustin – who was coming off a season in which he had averaged 11.1 points and 6.4 assists a game – that would have guaranteed him a fifth season in Charlotte, but all of that changed when it became apparent the team reversed course and started grooming Kemba Walker to take over as the starting point guard.
``My agent asked them to release me so that I could sign somewhere else,’’ Augustin recalled. ``I knew I’d get signed by somebody else.’’
Prior to leaving Charlotte, Augustin celebrated a couple of landmark moments in North Carolina. ``My daughter was born right before we went to Indy and she basically turned one later on. I got married in 2012 when my daughter was three months old.’’
- 2012-13, Indiana Pacers: Augustin signed with the Pacers in July of 2012 where he played for coach Frank Vogel, his head coach now in Orlando. ``He’s the same coach as now, but at the same time we had a veteran team in Indiana,’’ said Augustin, who averaged 4.7 points in 76 games with the Pacers and lived in an apartment with his wife and Kailey near the team’s downtown arena. ``We had David West, Danny Granger, Paul George – an up-and-coming superstar – and Roy Hibbert. So, we had a solid, veteran team that knew what winning was about and we made it to the conference finals. We almost beat the Heat to make it to the NBA Finals that year.’’
- 2013-14, Toronto Raptors: Augustin signed a free-agent deal with the Raptors in July of 2013, but things didn’t go anywhere near how he planned. ``I played 10 games with them, but I was with the team until December,’’ said Augustin, who saw just 8.2 minutes a game off the bench for the Raptors. ``I just wasn’t playing and I ended up getting released. That was the team’s decision because I guess I didn’t fit the scheme or whatever. They ended up releasing me after the Rudy Gay trade.’’
Augustin said a bit of real life helped mask his disappointment over getting waived for the first time in his professional career. The same day that he was cut by the Raptors he got news that brought a great deal of happiness to him and his wife.
``Obviously, all of the (fears of being out of the NBA) ran through my head, but at the same time my wife was pregnant with my son,’’ he remembered. ``A crazy story from that day was my agent called me that morning and told me I had been released. Then, we had a doctor’s appointment later that day to find out the sex of our baby and I really wanted a boy.
``In Toronto, we got this early-gender test and they said we were having another girl,’’ Augustin continued. ``So, I got waived that morning and I had all of this (NBA) stuff running through my head and I went to the doctor with my wife. Then, I found out we were having a boy and I was so excited that I didn’t even care about what had just happened (with the Raptors). … I felt like God did all of that to get me through.’’
- 2013-14, Chicago Bulls: Augustin had to leave his pregnant wife and daughter behind in Toronto so he could sign with the Bulls four days later, but he called it, ``the best thing that could have ever happened for me.’’
``They had just lost Derrick Rose and (Kirk) Hinrich was injured but he was coming back and they were dropping in the East and I went there and basically killed it,’’ said Augustin, who averaged 14.9 points and 5.0 assists a game for the Bulls. ``We made it to the playoffs and that was one of my best years in the league playing for (coach Tom Thibodeau).’’
Darryl Augustin III, known now as Trey, was born while dad starred for the Bulls and the family lived in Chicago.
- 2014-15, Detroit Pistons: With Rose set to come back in Chicago, Augustin looked for opportunities elsewhere and his strong play with the Bulls helped him land a contract with the Pistons that he thought would provide him and the family some much-needed stability.
``I felt like I was going to be in Detroit for at least two years with the two-year deal that I signed,’’ Augustin said. ``Brandon Jennings got hurt – he tore his Achilles – and I was starting in Detroit and averaging like 20 (points) and 10 (assists). I had 35 points in my first game against Toronto and that was a good feeling, man. It’s always great (motivation) to play against somebody who releases you.’’
After living in apartments in Toronto and Chicago, Augustin bought a house north of Detroit near where the Pistons played at the time in Auburn Hills, Mich. ``By this time, my son had been born, and it was me, my wife, my daughter and son in Detroit and I as playing well and we were winning,’’ Augustin said.
Then, the reality of professional basketball hit the Augustin family once again.
- 2014-14 through 2015-16, Oklahoma City Thunder: ``I was surprised that I got traded to the Thunder because I was playing so well,’’ said Augustin, who was dealt in a three-team, eight-player transaction that landed the Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson. ``We had just gotten back from all-star break and my agent called and I wasn’t even thinking he was calling me about a trade. He said, `Heads up, you might be getting traded tomorrow.’ That was my first time ever getting traded, so it was a shock to me because I was playing so well, we were getting settled in Detroit and everything was going so well. I was like, `Damn!’ when that happened.’’
In Oklahoma City, Augustin was reunited with Kevin Durant, a superstar forward who he first faced in the McDonald’s High School All-American Game and someone he teamed with for one brilliant season at the University of Texas.
``K.D.’s like my brother, man, and to this day, it’s like we’ve never left each other,’’ Augustin said of their friendship. ``It was great to be back with him, but he wasn’t playing then because of his foot problems. (Former OKC coach) Scott Brooks played me and Russell (Westbrook) a lot together and I played well.’’
Augustin played the final 28 games with the Thunder, but he saw time in just 34 games over the first two-thirds of the 2015-16 season in OKC. ``Billy Donovan came in (as head coach) and I guess I didn’t fit his culture of whatever as far as playing and I wasn’t in the rotation, so I asked to be traded because my contract was ending and I was about to be a free agent,’’ Augustin said. ``(Thunder president) Sam Presti was great and I thank him a lot for (granting his trade request). He did me a favor.’’
- 2015-16, Denver Nuggets: In Denver, Augustin played well enough over the final 28 games that he supplanted Jameer Nelson as the primary backup at point guard. He had a 26-point performance against the Lakers and double-double efforts against the Wizards (17 points and 10 assists) and the Clippers (18 points and 10 assists).
``I went to Denver, and with Mike Malone – another great coach who I loved playing for – and he gave me an opportunity, played me a lot of minutes and let me be myself as a scorer off the bench,’’ Augustin said. ``I believe that it got me my deal with Orlando.’’
- 2016-17 through present, Orlando Magic: Augustin’s strong finish to the 2015-16 season impressed former Magic GM Rob Hennigan and Assistant GM Scott Perry and they brought the point guard to Orlando along with Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka, Jeff Green and Jodie Meeks so that the Magic had more veteran leadership.
On the court, the 2016-17 season was a disappointment for Augustin as the Magic limped through a dismal 29-53 season. This season started great for Augustin as he was at the starting helm for much of Orlando’s 6-2 burst in October. However, Augustin strained his right hamstring while finishing a layup off a steal on Nov. 1 and things have never been the same – not for the Magic or Augustin.
Once 8-4, Orlando has dropped 23 of the past 27 games. Still, Augustin has remained confident that Orlando can turn things around and get its season back on track, saying recently, ``anything can happen in the NBA.’’
Even on nights like Wednesday, when the Magic struggled to get much of anything going against the Rockets and lost 116-98, Augustin said it’s the comfort of his family that helps him persevere.
``My family has gotten me through so many tough times as far as basketball and my career,’’ he said. ``This is my job, but it’s going to be over one day, but my family will be there for me forever. So, that’s what I always keep first. My kids run to me and scream, `Daddy,’ and as soon as I’m home and I forget about the games.’’
What Augustin never totally forgets is the difficulty that comes with getting waived or traded and having to uproot his family. He’s hopeful that it’s something he never has to endure again and that he can close out his career with the Magic.
``At first, it’s not that hard to move when it’s just you and your wife or maybe when you have just one kid,’’ he said while shaking his head. ``But now that my kids are in school and they are older, it’s hard to keep on moving and it takes a toll on you mentally. And it’s so hard on your wife because you’ve got to put everything on her because you’ve got to move on to the next city immediately. And it’s just hard being away from family and being in a new city that you don’t know. People don’t understand that, but it is what it is.’’
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