DALLAS — The strange case of D.J. Augustin came to a head Friday in Charlotte. It was first about what the ex-Charlotte Bobcat said. Then it was about what he did. Or didn’t do.
For four seasons Augustin played point guard for the Bobcats. While he wasn’t spectacular, he also wasn’t bad. Mostly he was a pleaser, trying to figure out what coaches Larry Brown and Paul Silas wanted of him. I’ve frequently used the term “self-conscious’’ in writing about D.J.’s demeanor.
Last summer the Bobcats pulled their $4.4 million qualifying offer, leaving Augustin an unrestricted free agent. Within hours he signed with the Indiana Pacers, for one season at $3.5 million. He was going there, in all likelihood, to back up George Hill.
By coincidence, the Bobcats opener was against the Pacers Friday. In pregame comments first to the Indianapolis Star and then to me, Augustin vented. Summing it up, he feels Bobcats management was never open with him about his role or his future.
That frustrated the Bobcats, who feel they were patient and respectful in developing Augustin. The thing that made Augustin’s comments awkward was the Bobcats twice made financial gestures that would have paid Augustin a lot more than what he’s now making with the Pacers.
The Bobcats won’t go into detail, but here’s what I know: Augustin was once offered a multi-year deal based roughly on the NBA’s mid-level exception It’s reasonable to assume that would have guaranteed him tens of millions in financial security.
Augustin chose to play it out to restricted free-agency, and even had he signed his qualifying offer, he’d have made another $800,000 this season. He also would have contended with Kemba Walker to be the starter in Charlotte.
But Augustin says he wanted to get to a winning franchise, and the Pacers are coming off a playoff run last season.
It was inevitable Friday that you’d compare what Augustin and Walker did. Granted, Walker is a starter and Augustin now a backup, but they were peers who play the same position.
Walker was everything the Bobcats hoped Friday when they drafted him in 2011: The alpha-dog from his Connecticut days, attacking the rim for a career-high 30 points.
Augustin looked like the self-conscious pleaser of past seasons, missing five of his first six shots. But even then, he got this wicked chance at redemption.
Walker missed a 20-foot jump shot that gave the Pacers the ball, down one, with 16.9 seconds left. The Pacers called timeout with 10 seconds left and subbed in Augustin for his 3-point shooting.
Great story, right? The ex-Bobcat returns to Time Warner Cable Arena and nails the game-winner that extends his old team’s losing streak to 24.
Yes, he got the ball. Yes, he had a clean look at the rim from 23 feet.
And, no, the ball didn’t go through the hoop. I suspect a few Bobcats executives nodded knowingly.
Five passing thoughts about the NBA and the Bobcats:
• I’m amused by the full-on panic among Lakers fans over the 0-3 start. I chuckled at Kobe Bryant saying he shouldn’t tell the fans to shut up, which was Bryant’s way of saying “shut up.’’
Here’s what baffles me about the Lakers’ lean toward the Princeton offense: If you go to the trouble of acquiring Steve Nash, maybe the best pick-and-roll point guard in NBA history, you might lean toward pick-and-rolls, right?
• A funny scene from Pacers shootaround Friday morning: Assistant coach Brian Shaw got into an impromptu 3-point contest with the current players and was clearly the best shooter on the court. Shaw, who interviewed to be Bobcats coach, maybe should still be playing, based on that display.
• Interesting how many questions I got after the opener about why rookie Jeff Taylor didn’t play for the Bobcats. Simple, really: Coach Mike Dunlap felt he had to lean on veterans – Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions, for instance – to manage that slim lead. The minutes have to come from somewhere, so Gerald Henderson moves over to small forward.
The Bobcats aren’t down on Taylor. But this is a time when he might benefit from watching.
• I think the Oklahoma City Thunder did the right thing by trading James Harden now, rather than play out the rookie-scale free agency process. Kevin Martin is a viable short-term solution and the Thunder get two first-round picks in the deal
Moving Harden soon enough that the receiving team retained his Larry Bird rights (allowing the Houston Rockets to award Harden a maximum contract) maximized Harden’s trade value. This reminded me of when then-Hornets general manager Bob Bass moved Alonzo Mourning to Miami, knowing the risk of losing him without compensation was real.
• Curious how long it took, first to postpone the Brooklyn Nets opener and then to cancel the New York City Marathon, in the wake of superstorm Sandy. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to be decisive in response to that much destruction. Just put sports on hold for a bit.