Augustin Returns to Backup Role
The official part of practice long since completed, a few of the Pacers entertained themselves on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse practice court Thursday by shooting left-handed three-pointers after most of their teammates had gone to the locker room.
At the other end, however, D.J. Augustin was putting up serious jumpers, from spots he would shoot from during a game, with the help of a ballboy who rebounded and an assistant coach, Dan Burke, who passed to him.
That sort of commitment, not to mention more accurate shooting, has returned Augustin to the No. 2 point guard position where he began the season. Ben Hansbrough’s promotion, it turned out, lasted six games, long enough to convince coach Frank Vogel that he has a place in the league, just not one as a primary backup at the moment.
The move seems to restore order to the Pacers’ playing rotation. Augustin, a former lottery pick and a starter the previous two seasons in Charlotte, had been signed to a one-year contract over the summer to play significant minutes as a backup to George Hill, but started slowly. His defense had been poor, and he had hit just 21-of-81 field goal attempts before the change.
Funny thing was, Augustin’s shooting in practice improved as soon as he stopped playing in games, and his professional attitude convinced Vogel he deserved another chance.
“Earlier he played beneath his capabilities,” Vogel said. “He’s shown a great amount of work ethic and determination to get back in the rotation and get his game right.”
Augustin by nature shows little emotion, so he didn’t celebrate his return to the rotation any more than he had pouted about his demotion. He said all the right things about being professional and staying ready, but said he had played better in practice because he was playing in longer stretches than in games.
“In practice you’re out there the whole time,” Augustin said. “You’re able to get a rhythm and play through mistakes. It’s harder in a game when your time’s limited. I just try to get as much work as I can in practice and move it over to the game.”
Augustin said, however, he and Vogel had not talked about altering his playing spurts.
“I don’t really know,” he said. “That’s on coach. Whatever time he gives me I’ll have the same attitude I’ve always had and just try to play.”
Augustin had been left on the bench for five of the seven games following his demotion. He had an encouraging appearance against Utah last week, scoring seven points while hitting 3-of-4 shots. He also was used with Hill in the backcourt, an option Vogel will consider in future games.
Hansbrough had a memorable debut against Cleveland after his promotion, scoring six points and seemingly inspiring older brother Tyler’s play, but he tapered off quickly. He scored seven points and hit just 1-of-9 shots in the other six games.
Vogel, however, believes he has a place in the league.
“I’m very encouraged with how Ben played,” Vogel said. “I think he has a chance to be an exceptional defensive point guard and a big-time scoring point guard. We didn’t really get to see enough opportunities for him to take advantage of his scoring ability, but that’s really going to be a strength of his. If you can defend at this level at his position, you’ve got a chance.”