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Augustin making the most of his opportunities

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It hasn’t taken long for D.J. Augustin to place his imprint on the Bulls and gain the respect of his teammates.

In Saturday’s 100-84 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the fifth-year point guard only furthered that respect by nearly going the distance in playing all but the final 96 seconds, scoring 18 (7-12 FG, 4-6 3PT), handing out 10 assists and grabbing five rebounds.

“He’s real unselfish, looking to get guys good looks at the rim,” said Taj Gibson, a benefactor of one of Augustin’s assists. “He has a lot of confidence and he’s knocking down big time treys, spreading the court open. Lately, the paint has been real cluttered and he’s just been stepping up and knocking down big shots.”

If Augustin keeps knocking down those shots, it should help open up the floor as defenses have to respect his outside shooting (12-for-29 in last five games, 41.4 percent), something that wasn’t happening with Kirk Hinrich with teams daring him to shoot (33 percent shooting on the season, 29 percent on three’s).

With little practice time, Augustin has had to cram in studying the playbook of coach Tom Thibodeau. But in only over a week’s time – since he officially signed with the team on Dec. 13 – he’s not only gotten comfortable with the offense and his teammates, he’s looked more liked the player the Charlotte Bobcats were hoping would be a long-term option at point guard before he served a forgettable stint in Indiana last season and just 10 games with Toronto this season before being released.

“That’s what the NBA is about. You never know what could happen,” Augustin said on his new opportunity. “You just have to take advantage of your opportunities and I love it here. I’m just trying to work as hard as a can to help my team win.

“I’m the type of person where I try not to get down on myself, just keep working hard. Like I said, you never know what could happen. The situation in Toronto, I didn’t get down on myself. I kept working hard and I came here and been playing a lot. I think if I would’ve got down on myself, I wouldn’t have been ready to play once I came here.”

Six games – three as a starter—is a small sample size, his numbers are solid. In that span, he’s averaging 12 points, leading the team in assists with 7.6, 1.2 steals in 34 minutes per game. That’s production that has made it so Hinrich doesn’t have to rush back from a stiff back that’s kept him out the past five games.

Speaking of Hinrich, It will be interesting to see how Augustin’s production fares when the veteran point guard returns to the starting lineup. But it will only assure that Hinrich isn’t playing nearly 40 minutes a night.

Going from not playing at all in Toronto to now playing major minutes for the Bulls has had its impact on Augustin’s body. He began cramping in his right hamstring in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, but fought through it after trainer’s provided him with an energy drink. He says the first couple of games his body was “really sore.”

Now with him getting his legs back, he’s making the most out of a new opportunity.

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