It was late in November and DJ Augustin was languishing on the Toronto Raptors’ bench, relegated to third string point guard. A few weeks later, the Raptors released Augustin so they could facilitate a trade for Rudy Gay. Things were looking grim for a player who was a lottery pick by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2008.
Around the same time, the Chicago Bulls were reeling. They lost their superstar, Derrick Rose, for another season due to a knee injury. The team had also traded away their second-best player, Luol Deng. They were losing games at an alarming rate and the season seemed lost.
Then something fortunate happened. The Bulls contacted Augustin and negotiated a deal that put him in a Bulls uniform. After that, magic happened.
Augustin got hot and started scoring. The Bulls allowed him to be aggressive without worrying about being benched. He was given charge of the offense and has flourished, like Nate Robinson did the previous season.
Joakim Noah has been the heart and soul of the Bulls. He made his second straight All-Star Game appearance this season, and says he owes it to Augustin. “He’s changed everything. Changed our team. We were really down in the dumps, D.J. came in, he’s a great scoring punch for us, he makes easy offense for other guys. For me personally, I don’t think I would’ve made the All-Star Game if it wasn’t for D.J.”
High praise for a guy who was not on anyone’s radar just two months ago.
Coach Tom Thibodeau is similarly impressed with Augustin. “He had a great need, we had a great need, sometimes the timing is just right,” Thibodeau said. “It was good fortune for us.”
For his part, Augustin never lost his confidence. “The NBA is about rhythm and confidence,” he said. “If you don’t have neither one of those things, you’re not going to play well, I don’t care who you are.”
Augustin has loved playing with Thibodeau. “He’s been pushing me and giving me that confidence that I needed,” he said. “Defense comes first with him, and if you don’t play good defense, you don’t play at all. So I’ve just been trying to play good defense.”
The turnaround for the Bulls has been surprising and great. They have soared to the fourth seed in the East, and are only a half game behind Augustin’s previous employer.
Speaking of the Raptors, the Bulls traveled to Toronto on February 19th. It was Augustin’s first time back there since his release. He played like a man on a mission. He scored 19 points, 13 of them in the critical fourth quarter, hitting four 3-pointers. He even talked some trash with a courtside fan.
Augustin’s success with the Bulls may help the team out in other ways. The Bulls are reportedly the most likely team to sign Jimmer Fredette, who was bought out by the Sacramento Kings and is on waivers until Saturday. Fredette is really interested in playing in Chicago, and part of the reason is due to the success Augustin and Robinson have had under Thibodeau.
Bulls fans are hoping Augustin can help the team continue its current run and make some real noise in the playoffs. He and the Bulls have had some good fortune so far, so let’s hope they have some more.