Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Opening Tip: Augustin continues solid play
By Nick Friedell
CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah understands why D.J. Augustin has been able to fit in so quickly to what the Bulls have built. Like the rest of this undermanned Bulls squad, Noah and his teammates appreciate the fact that Augustin, who was picked up by the Bulls last month after being waived by the Toronto Raptors, is an underdog just like them.
"Huuuge," Noah said after Augustin racked up 27 points Monday night in the Bulls' 102-100 overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers. "He's been huge. Just his playmaking ability, his ability to score the ball. I'm happy because I think he represents this team great. Somebody that people counted out comes in here and he's doing his thing. I'm happy he's on our side."
How big has the addition of D.J. Augustin been for the Bulls? "Huuuge," Joakim Noah said.
Nobody is happier than Augustin himself. After bouncing around the league the past couple of seasons, he knows he has found a good spot with the Bulls. He loves the fact that his new team has shown enough confidence in him to be able to take -- and make -- big shots over the past few weeks.
"It's just fun being out there playing, man," Augustin said. "It was a fun game tonight. Just being out there playing, being able to take those shots, and make them, it was just a great feeling. I think we all just went out there and played hard, gave it our all and came out with a W."
Augustin has filled the role that Nate Robinson played for the Bulls last season. He is a diminutive spark plug off the bench who provides instant offense for a team in desperate need of it. He's also a guy who has earned the trust of his new teammates in a short amount of time.
"D.J. is solid," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "And it's crazy how this league works, how he was waived at one point. He's really a talent. I've been saying that since the days we beat them when he was at Texas and I played against him at USC. I just always knew he was one of those good point guards. ... He's not afraid to hit the big shot. And he has so much confidence, every time we need a big bucket he knocks one down, and that's what we need right now."
But why, after struggling in Indiana and then Toronto last season and the early part of this one, has Augustin found a niche with the Bulls?
"I think sometimes in this league when you kind of get a fresh start, that can help," veteran guard Mike Dunleavy said. "A clean slate for him. He's come in with a lot of confidence, being aggressive, shooting the ball great. He just found a nice rhythm, and when that happens with guys that are talented like D.J., stuff like this happens. I think a little bit is just the situation he's comfortable in and just kind of regaining confidence and really playing well."
The key for Augustin is that he's playing with the type of confidence the Bulls need. He knows it and his teammates can feel it. While he doesn't know for sure what the future holds, he does sound like a man who would like to stay in Chicago for the foreseeable future. In the short term, Augustin could get more time because of Kirk Hinrich's hamstring injury, but in the long term, Augustin might be able to fill the role behind oft-injured Derrick Rose.
"I love it here," Augustin said. "I love the fans. They come out and support us every night. I love my teammates, I love playing for [coach Tom Thibodeau], so I love it here, and that kind of situation you never know what can happen. I don't want to look too far ahead, but just focus on getting better now and keep winning."
What's next: The Bulls fly to Cleveland to face off against Luol Deng and the Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
The last word: Noah, on possibly making his second All-Star team in a row:
"There are things that I can't control. So I'm just focused on the team and focused on winning, and [the possible selection] will take care of itself, god willing."