Regular training sessions key to Pistons' successes
In his first two games as the Pistons' starting point guard, D.J. Augustin averaged 27.5 points and 8.5 assists on 57.1% shooting (53.3% from 3), and despite two close losses to a pair of the Eastern Conference's best teams, the Pistons seemed poised to pick up an easy win against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers. Four quarters later, the Sixers claimed their ninth win of the season in a game where they dominated the travel-weary and emotional Pistons.
Augustin, much like the rest of the team, struggled mightily, in 34 minutes, the 6'0" New Orleans native scored two points off free-throws, missing all seven of his shots from the field and finished the game with a 4 assists across 3 turnovers. It was plain to see the Pistons were gassed.
"After that Philadelphia back-to-back, I told coach I was hurting," Augustin told MLive's David Mayo
The whole team was hurting. The loss of Jennings four games earlier was a morale-buster, and the scheduling was starting to take its toll on the Pistons, a break in the schedule allowing the Pistons to rest and practice was a welcome opportunity. In a similar way to the break they received over Christmas, the Pistons came out roaring and rolled another Texan team looking to take advantage of what seemed like a struggling Eastern Conference squad. The added bonus of the win was beating Josh Smith in a Palace homecoming that saw the crowd explode in ways that hadn't been seen the Pistons' glory days. Per Keith Langlois at Pistons.com:
"I think it was important for our guys," Van Gundy said. "They've been working hard. We didn't really get a chance to adjust after Brandon's injury. We didn't get a practice in for three straight games. There's still a long way to go, but it was good for them to get a win, get our spirits back up a little bit and now we've got six (games) heading into the break."
A few days of rest was all the Pistons needed to get back into their winning ways, led by Augustin and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's 28 points apiece they took down the Rockets, and a couple days later, Augustin walked all over the Heat on his was to a double-double. The team was taken down by Indiana after losing Pope in the first quarter to a sore Achilles, but despite the injuries and loss to the Pacers, Motown looks ready to go on a run before another well-deserved break – and if two days make that much of a difference, imagine what an eight day training-session could yield!
D.J. Augustin taking charge
On Dec. 13, 2013, D.J. received a call from his agent: after losing Derrick Rose for the season, the Chicago Bulls were interested in signing the recently waived floor-general and assign him a large amount of the minutes at the point. Augustin would be a revelation for the Bulls, averaging 14.9 points and 5.0 assists in 30.4 minutes per game and helped lead Chicago to claim the fourth seed in the East, eventually losing in the first round against the Washington Wizards 4-1.
Now with the Pistons, D.J. is thrust into a role he is all too familiar with. Detroit lost an All-Star caliber Brandon Jennings, and many were skeptical of the contribution they could expect from Augustin, who had struggled up until then. The doubters have been proved wrong, as the energetic point guard has lifted the team upon his shoulders, producing almost similar numbers to Jennings and causing almost as many problems for opposing defenses. Per David Mayo at MLive:
"For the majority of the game, we just couldn't get a handle on Augustin," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He was going wherever he wanted to go and pretty much just dominated the game, either dishing or with his own scores."
Since earning the starting job, DJ has averaged 20.2 points, 8.7 assists and 1.2 steals, whilst shooting .481/.444/.935, leading the Pistons to a 2 - 4 record. Despite the team's performance through the stretch, he has been impressing since taking the reigns, and is certainly making the case that he was one of the better signings of the offseason.
Brandon Jennings believes the Pistons have enough to make the playoffs, with Augustin rolling and the Pistons responding to Van Gundy's coaching, there is no reason to think otherwise. Much like how Brandon took leadership of the young team on the court, Augustin is doing the same, setting up his teammates, earning their respect, and playing with an intensity even their opponents are noticing. Augustin is stepping up to the plate, and is encouraging his teammates to do the same.
"I'm not one of those guys that's going to be very loud and very vocal, except for when I'm on the court," Augustin said. "But other than that, just lead by example -- work hard, do the right things, and hopefully my teammates will follow. We all want to win and do the right things as a team."
The Pistons are currently 2.5 games out of the eighth seed, Augustin is leading by example, and from the looks of it, its working.
Trade Watch Bullets
- MLive's David Mayo reported that a proposed trade between the Pistons and the Heat that would have sent Jonas Jerebko to Miami in return for Norris Cole fell through when former Pacers swingman Danny Granger was added to the deal by Pat Riley.
- According to KTSP's Darren Wilson, the Pistons have a "small chance" of landing veteran point guard Mo Williams, who has a had a solid season with the Minnesota Timblerwolves. DBB looked into the 32 year-old guard here.
- Brendan Savage from MLive reported that the Pistons' trade opportunities have dried up, and that Stan Van Gundy will consider the team's option on the Feb 19 deadline, suggesting that John Lucas III could be handed a guaranteed contract for the rest of the year.
- ProBasketballTalk's Sean Highkin believes the New York Knicks could offer Greg Monroe a max-contract in order to help their rebuild around Carmelo Anthony. This isn't the first time New York has been linked to the Georgetown
- Basketball Insider's Steve Kyler says there were whispers about a potential reunion between the Pistons and Jose Calderon, but that the length and size of his contract made him an unattractive option.
- Sean Deveney from Sports Nation says the Pistons have been linked to the Bulls' Taj Gibson. Considering the Pistons are not in the market for a bigman and Gibson has 2 years and $17 million remaining of his contract, don't expect Detroit to be further linked to the Bulls' forward unless something drastic happens to the Pistons' frontcourt depth.
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