INDIANAPOLIS—“Not really, man,” D.J. Augustin insisted before the Bulls’ morning shootaround. “We play so many games and every game is a tough game, so I just look for each game one by one and now that it’s here, I’m looking forward to it.”
The mild-mannered backup point guard might claim he isn’t overly focused on having a good showing when his current team takes on his former team, the Pacers, Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but knowing how fired up he was upon his return to Toronto last month, it wouldn’t be surprising if Augustin felt he had something to prove.
Augustin doesn’t bear any ill will toward the Pacers for how things went last season, but he acknowledged that he felt deserving on increased playing time during his one-year stint in Indiana. With the Bulls, the diminutive floor general has proven that with extended minutes, he can replicate the early-career success he experienced with the team that drafted him, Charlotte.
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“I’m getting a chance to play. Last year, I didn’t get a chance to play as much. So when you get a chance to play and get minutes, and feel comfortable and get rhythm, you play better. I don’t care who you are,” Augustin explained. “You’ve got to be professional, man. It’s a business, so I just tried to come in, be professional, work hard every day in practice, do what I had to, stay in shape, get my game ready, and get better, if I ever did get an opportunity to play.”
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, for his part, admitted that Augustin was always capable of doing what he’s done since arriving in Chicago, though he didn’t get to showcase his ability in Indiana.
“Well, first of all, I’m thrilled for him because he’s a wonderful, wonderful guy and we loved having him here on our team. And I’m happy to see him getting the opportunity that he’s gotten. When he played starter’s minutes for us, he played like he’s playing right now. I haven’t looked at the numbers or anything, but we always felt like if he had to play extended minutes, we were going to be just fine. And he’s showing that again here with the Bulls,” Vogel said. “It’s tough for some guys to get into a rhythm in short minutes and he had his struggles in terms of that, but he also had some really great moments for us. So just a guy that we’ll always consider part of the family and I’m really happy for his success.”
When asked if he had any concern about potentially being overexerted by Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, notorious for doling out heavy minutes to key players on his team, Augustin scoffed.
“Nah,” he said, with a smirk. “What you think?
“I don’t mind that. That’s what we’re here to do, play basketball. So if you’re going to be out there for 48 minutes, that’s great, too.”
Thibodeau when asked about how Augustin has impacted the Bulls, repeated his usual refrain: “He’s been huge for us. He had a need and we had a need. And it’s worked out well. We needed shooting. He has provided that. The one thing that we did know was that he was capable of doing it because he had already done it. He had done it in Charlotte. I thought he played well. His role was obviously different because it was less minutes. But I knew from having to prepare against him how I felt from doing that. To his credit, when he wasn’t playing, he stayed ready. And it was a good situation for both of us.”