NBA: Bobcats’ Brown big on rookie point guard
By Mike Cranston
LAS VEGAS ó The superlatives kept streaming out of Larry Brown’s mouth: Terrific. Attentive. Real good. Great kid.
Despite his well-earned reputation of being brutally tough on rookies and point guards, the new Charlotte Bobcats coach couldn’t stop saying nice things about D.J. Augustin ó his rookie point guard.
“He just does what you ask him to do, without exception,” Brown said after a minicamp practice this week. “I knew he was a good player, but he’s far exceeded my expectations.”
The Bobcats surprised many when they took the Texas sophomore with the ninth pick in the draft last month. The Bobcats needed help up front and big man Brook Lopez of Stanford was still on the board. While the Bobcats needed another point guard, they had used the fifth pick in 2005 on starter Raymond Felton.
Managing partner Michael Jordan makes the final call on the Bobcats’ basketball decisions, but it’s clear Brown held a lot of clout in the war room. Coming back from a two-year hiatus following a 23-win season in New York that got him fired, Brown wanted a pure point guard.
He wanted Augustin. And after seven practices over four days, Brown thinks Augustin has grasped the fast-moving, quick-passing offense he wants.
“It’ll be neat because once the veterans come in I think he’ll endear himself to all those guys, because if you get open he’s going to get you the ball,” Brown said. “He thinks pass first. He gets you into what you want to do. He gets the ball to the right people. He’s real good.”
Brown put in numerous plays during two-a-day practices, and Augustin appeared to be in firm command of the offense Friday afternoon. He barked out plays and showed good vision and court awareness.
“It’s been going good,” the soft-spoken Augustin said. “Every day we’ve been getting better.”
Not that Augustin doesn’t have work to do. He’s had his shot blocked several times on drives the basket, magnifying the height issue. While he’s listed at 6-foot, he appears shorter.
“The physical part of the game and the fact that maybe with bigger people that are shot blockers you have to use an intermediate shot more,” Brown said. “And he did it in college.”
Augustin averaged 19.2 points and a Big 12-leading 5.8 assists last season while winning the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard.
Augustin will start in Charlotte’s summer league opener Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers, leading a team of rookies and free agents looking for training camp invitations.
When training camp starts in the fall, point guard will be the most watched position as Felton tries to hold off Augustin for the starting job.
“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can. I’m new. I’m a rookie,” Augustin said. “I don’t know anything about the NBA level right now. I’m just trying to learn as much as possible from coach and hopefully Raymond and the other veterans.”
Augustin said he’s chatted briefly with Felton, who is in Las Vegas this week working out with teammates Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace. While Felton insists he’s a true point guard, former coaches Bernie Bickerstaff and Sam Vincent often played him at shooting guard in his first three years in the NBA. Brown brought up this week that Felton can play both spots.
That could pave the way for Augustin to eventually become a rookie starting point guard, a tough task in a league dominated by long, athletic players who quickly close off passing lanes.
Then there’s his coach, the demanding perfectionist who has hounded numerous point guards in his eight previous NBA head coaching stops. Just ask Chauncey Billups or Allen Iverson.
“He’s been so well-coached, and he accepts coaching,” Brown said. “So he’ll figure it out.”