It’s been a crazy couple of seasons for DJ Augustin.
In July of 2012, Augustin signed with the Indiana Pacers. Twelve months later, after a disappointing season in which he played less than ever (16.1 mpg) and shot worse than ever (35 percent), the 6-0 guard inked a deal with the Toronto Raptors.
Augustin wouldn’t make it to Christmas in Canada.
On December 9, 2013, the Raptors waived the native of New Orleans, LA. In 10 appearances with the team, the ninth overall selection in the ’08 Draft averaged 2.1 points per game on 29 percent shooting. Augustin was only playing 8.2 minutes, when he got in at all, and couldn’t find a rhythm.
Four long days later, with multiple members of the media question Augustin’s future NBA prospects, the Chicago Bulls picked him up. The shotgun half-season marriage between Augustin and Chicago would prove beneficial for everyone involved.
With his career on the ropes, Augustin needed an opportunity to show out. And with Derrick Rose out for the season after suffering yet another knee injury, Chicago needed another scoring guard. They both got what they wanted, and then some.
Augustin appeared in 61 games for the Bulls. Playing 30 minutes a night, while shooting 41 percent on threes, the suddenly resurgent guard averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5 assists per game. Meanwhile, buoyed in part by his production, Chicago would finish the season 48-34, good for fourth in the Eastern Conference, before falling to the Washington Wizards in the Playoffs.
Though the season ended with an L for the Bulls, Augustin came out of topsy-turvy year with a big W. And now, with free agency on the horizon and plenty of NBA suitors waiting on line for his services, Augustin is getting ready for the biggest summer of his career.
We caught up with the 26-year-old to discuss his brief tenure in Toronto, his prolific stay in Chicago, his penchant for wearing CP3s on the court, and so much more.
Don’t call it a comeback.
SLAM: How did you feel when Toronto waived you?
DJ Augustin: To be honest with you, my wife is pregnant and we had a doctor’s appointment the same day that I got waived. My agent called and told me I was waived and that I already had some teams calling, so I knew I’d be picked up by somebody. I’d been praying for a boy, and that day we found out we were having one, so I actually didn’t even care. I didn’t even think about basketball, because I was so excited about that. It actually was a happy day for me.
SLAM: I hear that. Then you had a couple teams calling you, so why did you decide to go with Chicago? Because Derrick Rose was out and they needed another guard to play right away?
DA: Not just because DRose was out. I just thought it was a great opportunity to play for a great organization with great coaches and great teammates. When I came in, Coach Thibs gave me a chance to play right away. He gave me a lot of minutes, and I got confident and comfortable, and that’s what it’s all about in the NBA. When you feel confident and comfortable, every guy can play to the best of their ability.
SLAM: Coach Thibs big-upped you in the media a lot. What was it like to play for him, and what was it like to know he had so much confidence in you?
DA: You have to be mentally tough to play for him, because he’s gonna yell and scream and get the best out of you. You have to be mentally tough, but at the same time he just gives you that ultimate confidence, makes you feel comfortable and he lets you play through things. If you missed some shots or turned the ball over, he doesn’t snatch you out of the game right away like most coaches would. He gives you a chance to redeem yourself, and that’s all you can ask.
SLAM: After a tough season last year in Indiana and a rough start to this season in Toronto, do you think you gained perspective as far as the business of basketball?
DA: Oh, yeah. You can’t take anything for granted in this League; it’s a business. I thought Indiana would be a good fit for me, but it actually didn’t work out—I didn’t get as much playing time as I was told. I think it’s hard for any player, no matter who you are, to get in a rhythm and play well if you’re playing little minutes. Then, Toronto, I just spent two months there. I feel like God does things for a reason, he put me there for a reason, and they let me go for a reason. I don’t even count Toronto as a team [I’ve played on], because I didn’t even get a chance to play there.
SLAM: People had started counting you out. Do you feel like your time in Chicago is sort of an I-told-you-so to the doubters?
DA: Definitely. I’m not going to say all media, but people don’t have a clue. Most of them have never played basketball. They don’t know what it’s like to come off the bench and play two minutes and come out of the game. They see it and say you’re having a bad year and all that. Now I get to sit back and kind of laugh at all of the comments that were made, and all of the people that doubted me, and now I get to play with a chip on my shoulder. Every day in the League you’ve got something to prove, that’s just how I feel, and now I’m trying to prove it to everybody.
SLAM: You played with such confidence down the stretch. What’s it like to be playing your best ball ever at 26?
DA: It feels great, man. Just having that confidence back where even if you miss a shot, just knowing that if I get open again I’m going to shoot it again. I didn’t always have that confidence playing on my first teams, and that goes back to Thibs believing in me. [Like], there were times when I was missing shots and he kept me in the game; there were times I did turn the ball over and he kept me in the game. That built my confidence up. The biggest thing when you play basketball is that you can’t worry—you’ve got to shoot, play with confidence, and whatever happens is going to happen anyway.
SLAM: Let’s talk sneakers for a second: You wore a lot of Jordan CP3s down the stretch.
DA: Yeah. You know I’m signed with Jordan. When I was a rookie in Charlotte, they would make all the [Air Jordan] shoes and just put them in our team colors. Well, they stopped doing it, and when I was in Indiana I started wearing retros. The retros don’t work for me when I play basketball. They kind’ve hurt my knees, cause they’re kind’ve flat. One day I tried the CP3s, and they’re so great. I’ve been sticking with them.
SLAM: I was wondering if you guys had a personal relationship, just because of the New Orleans connection?
DA: I mean, when we see each other we speak, but we don’t talk on the phone or anything like that. When I was in high school, when he was with New Orleans, he used to come to my games. In college, I remember he came to a couple of games when we played Oklahoma, after Katrina, when the Hornets played in Oklahoma City. We just have that mutual respect. He’s a great player—I used to watch a lot of his tapes to try to do certain things he does—and he’s somebody I look up to.
SLAM: In terms of the retros, I love rocking them but I can’t imagine how MJ actually played in them.
DA: Yeah, I can’t. Like I said, both of my knees started hurting. I was thinking it was tendinitis, but then when I tried the CP3s a couple days later it stopped hurting and I haven’t had any issues since. It’s not that I’m saying that the [retros] are the reason, but I don’t know how he could play in them. I do have a bunch of retros, though, and I wear them around off the court a lot. I just can’t play in them.
SLAM: You probably have a pretty big collection.
DA: [Laughs] I got all of the retros. We get them like three, four months before they come out.
SLAM: Where do you keep them?
DA: I keep a lot in my house in Houston; I have some out in Chicago; and I give some of my retros away. I don’t give too many away, but I give, usually, the team shoes to my family and friends. They got to be special to me to get some retros [laughs].
SLAM: Do you have any keepsakes from your playing days?
DA: Yeah. I got my McDonald’s jersey hanging up in my house. I got my Texas jersey. I have my Bobcats jersey, Indiana jersey, I’m gonna put up my Bulls jersey.
SLAM: I was gonna say, no Toronto jersey?
DA: Nah, no Toronto jersey. I ain’t putting no Toronto jersey up. I don’t have to worry about that one. And also, I keep some of my old teammates’ stuff. I got a KD (Kevin Durant) jersey, TJ Ford. I try to collect and get them to sign them for me.
SLAM: Having played in college with KD, what do you think about where his game is at right now?
DA: I knew it would be that way from the first time I met him. When we first met at UT, we went straight to the gym and he’s been there ever since. He’s always in the gym, always want to play. He doesn’t care about anything else but basketball. He doesn’t care about money or anything. He loves the game, and the way he works, I knew it would be a matter of time before he’d be where he’s at.