DJ Augustin hopeful of turnaround in second season with Rockets

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Veteran guard DJ Augustin led the short-handed Rockets with 18 points and 5 assists during Sunday’s season-ending loss in Atlanta. It was an appropriate way for Houston’s year to end, with 10 players sidelined by injury and the roster seemingly outclassed by a playoff opponent.

Houston’s finished the 2020-21 season at 17-55, which is their first time to have the NBA’s worst record since the 1982-83 campaign.

At 33 years old and having not won a championship during his long NBA career, Augustin is at a career point where many veterans look to leave rebuilding situations for a better opportunity to win. Yet, in this case, the 5-foot-11 guard appears to be very happy in Houston.

In comments after Sunday’s game, Augustin said:

I feel like once we get everybody back, we have a chance. You got to believe you have a chance. A lot of games we lost, we’ve been right there, and we’ve been missing key guys in every game. So, once we get everybody back healthy and some new additions and guys get better over the summer, we have a chance. And that’s all you need in this league, an opportunity and a chance. …

I’m excited. Playing with these young guys, seeing how they listen and how they try to accept criticism, how they get better every day, how they show up early and leave late, those things are important. And they all have done it. So, I’m excited for next year.

Augustin was traded to Houston in late March as part of the deal that sent veteran forward PJ Tucker to Milwaukee.

In 20 games with the Rockets, Augustin averaged 10.6 points (38.6% on 3-pointers) and 3.9 assists in 20.8 minutes per game.

Once John Wall and Eric Gordon were lost to season-ending injuries, Augustin and Kelly Olynyk effectively became the prominent veteran mentors for a young and developing team.

While Olynyk is a free agent, Augustin is under contract with the Rockets for at least one more season. While many players of his age and stature look to force a trade or contract buyout in such a situation, that doesn’t appear to be Augustin’s thinking heading into the 2021 offseason. In Augustin’s case, another potential reason is that Houston is his adopted hometown, and he played in college at the University of Texas.

Whatever the rationale, Augustin sounds legitimately excited to be a part of what the Rockets are trying to build. As general manager Rafael Stone puts together his 2021-22 roster around a “young core” of Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr., KJ Martin, and Jae’Sean Tate, having veterans that accept that type of role and environment is likely to be important.

“I’ve been happy since I’ve been here,” Augustin said after Sunday’s game. “Just being able to play with these guys, and being home in Houston with my family. It’s been a great experience for me.”

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