During his one-year stint at the University of Texas, current Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant’s point guard was none other than current Bull D.J. Augustin. The former Longhorns were in the same high school class and have remained close over the years, so Durant was happy to see that Augustin has found his niche in Chicago after bouncing around for a few seasons.
“I’m so happy for him, man. We spent so much time together when we were at Texas. We lived next door to each other, and we had a connection since the first day we stepped on campus. I was there when he got drafted, so of course I followed his career from Charlotte. He moved around a little bit, and I think this has been a perfect home for him. I think he turned their season around when he came in. These guys were hurt, and he played just tremendous basketball, and he’s doing that now. I hope he plays terrible tonight, but I’m so happy for him. He’s hard-working; he deserves it all. He’s humble, has his priorities in order, and he’s just someone I really look up to,” the All-Star small forward said. “He’s one of those point guards that’s pass-first, but he can also score. He plays terrific defense, and Coach Thibodeau is one of those guys that if you put your all in defense, you’re going to play. He bought in from the beginning. He’s one of those system guys where he’s going to come in and do what the coach needs him to do, and that’s what he’s done here and he’s found himself a nice home.”
Durant also complimented Bulls’ All-Star center Joakim Noah, who was in the same 2007 NBA Draft class as him.
“He always could pass the basketball. That’s nothing new that he’s doing out there. He’s playing his regular game. I think people are just starting to recognize what he’s done. He’s been doing it for the last three or four years, but for some reason you guys [the media] are acting surprised,” he said. “But he’s been playing that way ever since he got into the league. Playing with high energy on both ends of the floor, passing the basketball well. That’s just how he plays. From the first time I watched him, he’s been like that. So nothing new.”
Westbrook discusses strategic rest
Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook was back in Oklahoma City’s starting lineup after missing the team’s home loss to Dallas the previous evening. Westbrook will only play in half of back-to-back sets for the remainder of the regular season following meniscus surgery on his knee.
“It’s tough, but at the same time, I have to do what’s right for my body and for my health,” he explained. “I can’t wait to play any game, but after missing a game and seeing us lose, I definitely want to come back and find a way to help our team win.
“I mean, it’s tough. Obviously it’s a tough process. But it’s something I have to deal with and something that’s best for my health and for my future,” Westbrook, who has had three surgical procedures in the past year, went on to say. “Just being confident. You have to have confidence in yourself and health and knowing the rehab and all the work you put in has paid off.
“It’s important for me to make sure my health is OK. How long it’s going to last I’m not sure. For now all I can do is just go day by day and figure out what I’m going to do next,” the point guard continued. “All I can worry about is what I’m doing now. As for next year, I’ll worry about that when next year comes.
“But after talking to the doctors and trainers, there’s a lot that goes into which games. It doesn’t matter what team it is. It matters on the games and days and things like that.”
Bulls' home stand concludes
Monday completes the Bulls’ six-game home stand, a crucial portion of the campaign, as it relates to playoff positioning. While his team still some tough games remaining in the regular season, including somewhat of a home-and-home set with the Central Division rival Pacers this week, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is pleased with the progress he’s witnessed at this stage of things, particularly considering the caliber of team to visit the United Center lately.
[Thibodeau: Butler deserves All-Defensive Team consideration]
“I like it. It tests you in a lot of ways, lets you know where you are. We have to keep our concentration, focus on our improvement and play for 48 minutes against these teams. If you let your guard down at all, two or three bad minutes, they can score a ton of points on you,” the coach explained. “The thing to me is, again, you’re heading down the stretch now. You want to see where you are. Each game is revealing something to you on the things you need to work on. It never ends. The whole idea is to be playing your best down the stretch and to be as healthy as possible. It’s a good opportunity for us. You’re challenged in a lot of different ways. The fact you have a six-game home stand is very unusual.
“I don’t know if there are any other teams that have had that. I like what it does in terms of how you have to prepare, how you have to concentrate, how you can’t allow yourself to become distracted. Those are things I think you need to develop those habits to prepare yourself for the playoffs. The attitude and approach of the team has been good. There’s a lot of work to be done. We can’t look ahead. We have to just concentrate on what’s in front of us.
Noah chimed in: “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what’s been said. All I know is we’re going to have to play our best game to compete against these guys, to beat these guys, and to do that we’ll have to play one of our best games of the season.”