D.J. Augustin

Magic Notes: Offense, Augustin, Ennis

After finishing last season on a 22-9 run to nab the seventh seed in the East, the Magic entered the 2019/20 season looking to build on that second-half success and take another step forward. But so far, injuries and struggles on the offensive end have held the club back.

Orlando’s 105.5 offensive rating is easily the worst mark of any playoff team, ranking 26th overall in the NBA. However, asked by Josh Robbins of The Athletic if the Magic will prioritize acquiring offensive-minded players going forward, president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman suggested it isn’t quite that simple.

“I think we’ve already done that. I just think that they’re young,” Weltman said.Jonathan Isaac is going to be a good offensive player. Mo Bamba’s going to be a good offensive player. Chuma Okeke is going to be a good offensive player. We’re trying to get two-way players. The trick is to not get guys who are just good offensive players. So I don’t think we look at it like, ‘This year we draft an offensive player.’ We try to draft good basketball players.”

Although the Magic had an opportunity to add reinforcements at the trade deadline last week, they ended up only making one minor move, bringing in James Ennis in exchange for a late-second round pick. Weltman told Robbins that it’s hard to say for sure how close he got to making additional moves.

“I always say you’d have to ask the other teams,” he said. “I can tell you that we had a few connections that we made with teams and talks that got seemingly substantial. But at the end of the day, this is a poker game, and when the hand gets folded, the other team doesn’t show you its cards. So I really don’t know.”

Here’s more out of Orlando:

  • Injured point guard D.J. Augustin seems to be on track to return to the Magic’s rotation shortly after the All-Star break, tweets Robbins. Augustin, who has primarily come off the bench this season, has been on the shelf with a knee injury since January 13.
  • Newly-acquired swingman James Ennis, who waived his no-trade clause to join the Magic last week, says he did so because he wanted a chance at an increased role, writes John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com. “I waived it because it was time for me be selfish,” Ennis said. “I was unselfish this (past) summer by giving up more money to go back to Philly. And when I stopped playing in Philly and I saw a good opportunity to come here due to the injuries. But, I’m glad that I’m here now.” After averaging just 7.2 minutes per game in his last seven contests with Philadelphia, Ennis logged 16 minutes in his first game with the Magic on Monday.
  • After Orlando’s City Council approved a land sale to the Magic this week, the team is moving forward with plans to build a new practice facility that will open for the 2021/22 season, Robbins writes at The Athletic. The Magic currently practice at the Amway Center, but the team’s new facility will be a separate building that includes a community health center and offices for the basketball operations staff.

Eastern Notes: Love, Bryant, Bertans, Augustin, C’s

Few NBA players have been mentioned more frequently in trade rumors this season than Kevin Love. However, with the Cavaliers and potential trade partners not seeing eye-to-eye on Love’s value, there appears to be no movement on a potential deal, with just over 24 hours left before Thursday’s deadline. For his part, Love sounds fully prepared to remain in Cleveland through the deadline.

“I don’t think anything is going to happen,” the Cavaliers’ power forward said, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “I really don’t, but we’ll see.”

As Fedor explains, sources have insisted for weeks that a Love trade is unlikely because the Cavaliers are unwilling to treat a deal as a salary dump. They view Love as a valuable trade chip and would balk at attaching a draft pick to him, while possible suitors believe they’d be doing Cleveland a favor by taking on the 31-year-old’s pricey long-term contract. That gap seems unlikely to be bridged by Thursday afternoon.

Here are a few more notes from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Thomas Bryant, who missed 20 games earlier in the season with a right foot injury, is once again dealing with soreness in that foot, the Wizards announced today (via Twitter). Bryant has been ruled out for at least the next two games and will be re-evaluated on Monday.
  • Asked today if he wants to stick with the Wizards through the trade deadline, forward Davis Bertans replied, “Of course, I love it here” (video link via Fred Katz of The Athletic).
  • Although they still have a strong hold on a playoff spot, the Magic have missed D.J. Augustin‘s leadership and shooting ability recently, as John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com details. Orlando has a 3-8 record in the last month without Augustin, who will likely remain on the shelf through the All-Star break due to his left knee bone irritation, head coach Steve Clifford said today (Twitter link via Josh Robbins of The Athletic).
  • Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters today that Robert Williams has been cleared for full practices after the All-Star break and that Daniel Theis – out with an ankle sprain – has no set timetable (Twitter link via Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald).

Trade Rumors: Covington, Randle, Henson, Celtics

The Clippers are among the teams pursuing Timberwolves forward Robert Covington, Sean Deveney of Heavy.com reports. A package of their first-round pick this year, forward Maurice Harkless, and a young player such as Jerome Robinson or Terance Mann could be enough to secure Covington, Deveney continues. Grizzlies forward Andre Iguodala, Suns center Aron Baynes and Magic guard D.J. Augustin are among the other potential targets for the Clippers, Deveney adds.

We have more trade chatter:

  • The Knicks have engaged in trade talks with the Hornets involving forward Julius Randle, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer tweets. Charlotte would be a surprising landing spot for Randle, who has a guaranteed $18.9MM salary for next season. However, the Hornets have three frontcourt players with large expiring contracts and will need reinforcements.
  • The Knicks had talks with the Cavaliers which included center John Henson but those discussions have died down, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Henson has an expiring $9.7MM contract.
  • Celtics GM Danny Ainge would like to strengthen the team’s bench but doesn’t see the center position as a major weakness, Jacob Camenker of NBC Sports Boston relays. The Celtics are reportedly one of the teams interested in acquiring Rockets center Clint Capela. Ainge indicated the roster “probably too many really young guys” but claimed he’s content with Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, and Robert Williams manning the middle. “We’re not getting beat at the center position,” Ainge said. “We’re getting 17, 18 points per night. We’re getting double-figure rebounds. We’re just doing it as a team.”

Magic’s D.J. Augustin Out At Least 3-4 Weeks

The Magic will be without their primary backup point guard for at least the next few weeks, announcing on Thursday night in a press release that D.J. Augustin has been diagnosed with left knee bone irritation after undergoing an MRI.

Augustin will be re-evaluated in about three or four weeks, according to the Magic, who say that the veteran’s return will depend on how he responds to treatment.

It’s a tough turn of events for the Magic, who have had to deal with an increasing number of injuries in recent weeks. With forwards Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu on the shelf with long-term ailments, the club signed Gary Clark to a 10-day contract earlier this week, parting ways with point guard Josh Magette, since it seemed at the time as if Augustin was good to go.

However, Augustin’s knee pain returned and his injury now may sideline him until next month’s All-Star break. While Markelle Fultz has been a pleasant surprise for Orlando this season, enjoying one of the best games of his career on Wednesday, he’s the team’s only healthy point guard at the moment, as Michael Carter-Williams continues to be nagged by a shoulder injury.

The Magic would only qualify for a hardship exception – allowing them to add a 16th man – if Carter-Williams still projects to miss at least two more weeks after Augustin sits for a third consecutive game on Saturday. So the team may have to make do with its current roster and wait for MCW and Augustin to get healthy.

Augustin, whose numbers are down this season after an impressive 2018/19 campaign, will be looking to finish the season strong once he returns from his knee injury, as the Magic make a playoff push and he prepares for unrestricted free agency.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Heat, Olynyk, Magic

Hornets head coach James Borrego had done an admirable job this season finding plenty of playing time for his youngsters without alienating the veterans on the roster, as Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer details.

Borrego vowed during the preseason that he wouldn’t let salaries dictate which players get the most minutes and has stuck to that approach as his team, which currently holds the No. 9 seed in the East, has exceeded expectations. Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier, PJ Washington, and Miles Bridges are the top four Hornets in minutes per game, but vets like Cody Zeller, Nicolas Batum, and Bismack Biyombo have had regular roles too.

“I feel like he has made us older guys a part of this thing as well,” Hornets forward Marvin Williams said of Borrego. “Obviously, Nic would love to play more, but he’s a team player. There are times when I maybe would like to play more, but that’s not my job (to decide).”

As Borrego looks to continue striking that balance while keeping Charlotte competitive, let’s round up a few more notes from around the Southeast…

  • For the five years following LeBron James‘ departure in 2014, the Heat were almost exactly a .500 team, averaging just under 42 wins per season. However, the club is on pace to rack up 56 wins in 2019/20. In an entertaining feature, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps take a look at how team president Pat Riley and free agent addition Jimmy Butler – along with rising star Bam Adebayo – have helped revitalize the franchise.
  • After spending most of the season outside of the Heat‘s rotation, James Johnson has played rotation minutes in three of the team’s last four games, while it’s Kelly Olynyk who finds himself getting DNP-CDs. Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel examines the evolving roles for the two Miami bigs and how they’re responding.
  • One day after they ended point guard Josh Magette‘s 10-day contract, the Magic find themselves without D.J. Augustin (knee) and Michael Carter-Williams (shoulder) for Wednesday’s game vs. the Lakers. Asked about that roster decision, head coach Steve Clifford admitted that the return of Augustin’s knee soreness “caught us totally off-guard,” tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Magette 10-day deal would’ve run through January 20 if it hadn’t been terminated early.

Magic Notes: Isaac, Fultz, Bamba, Fournier

The Magic didn’t offer a specific return timetable for Jonathan Isaac when they issued an update on his left knee injury last week. However, the up-and-coming forward isn’t expected to be re-evaluated for eight-to-10 weeks, and Josh Robbins of The Athletic suggests Isaac will likely miss the rest of the 2019/20 season.

As Robbins writes in a separate story for The Athletic, Isaac’s absence will be a tough blow for a Magic team that had already played below its expectations in the first half. While Orlando currently holds the No. 8 seed, the team had hoped to move up in the standings after winning 22 of its final 31 games last season. Instead, the Magic are just 16-20 so far, and without perhaps their best defensive player, there’s no guarantee they’ll hang onto that postseason spot.

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • Despite his injury, Isaac is one of two Magic players viewed by Robbins as untouchable in trade talks, as The Athletic’s Orlando reporter details in his deadline primer. The second player? Markelle Fultz, whom team officials believe will continue to improve as a shooter and defender. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the club trades either player, Robbins writes.
  • While Mo Bamba isn’t in the same untouchable tier as Isaac and Fultz, that doesn’t mean the Magic have any interest in moving him, according to Robbins, who suggests the team is unlikely to give up young players or first-round picks for a short-term fix, given the ceiling on this year’s roster.
  • The Magic face a similar dilemma with Evan Fournier that they did a year ago with Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, Robbins observes. Vucevic and Ross were veterans headed for unrestricted free agency, but Orlando chose not to trade either player and eventually re-signed both. It’s not clear whether the team will head down a similar path with Fournier — Robbins speculates that the Magic will be open to inquiries but would insist on receiving high value in any deal.
  • Fultz has supplanted D.J. Augustin as the Magic’s starting point guard, but head coach Steve Clifford hasn’t hesitated to play the two guards together, and the results have been positive, writes Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com. Orlando has a 104.7 offensive rating and 106.1 defensive rating on the season, but those marks have improved to 111.4 and 101.9, respectively, when Augustin and Fultz share the court.

Lakers Notes: Augustin, Collison, Rondo, Kuzma

D.J. Augustin could be an option for the Lakers as they seek help at point guard, writes Sean Deveney of Heavy. A source tells Deveney the team would be the front-runner to land Darren Collison if he’s serious about returning to the NBA, but the Lakers’ front office is exploring other options as well.

LeBron James has been handling most of the point guard duties, with help from 33-year-old Rajon Rondo and combo guards Alex Caruso and Avery Bradley. Offseason addition Quinn Cook has fallen out of the rotation.

Augustin, who has an expiring $7.25MM contract, would provide a more dependable option in the postseason. Deveney speculates that he might be available if the Magic decide to point toward next season after this week’s injury to Jonathan Isaac, particularly now that Markelle Fultz replaced Augustin as a starter. The Lakers don’t have a second-round pick to offer until 2023, but Deveney notes they do have Talen Horton-Tucker, who was drafted by Orlando last year.

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • Collison, who said he wants to join one of the L.A. teams, would be the Lakers’ best option if he has kept his game sharp during his brief retirement, writes Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Pincus points out that Collison spent the 2013/14 season with the Clippers, but also played for Lakers coach Frank Vogel in Indiana.
  • Rondo said he was convinced to spend another year with the Lakers after the organization acquired two of his former teammates by trading for Anthony Davis and signing DeMarcus Cousins, relays Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Cousins, who hasn’t played because of injury, was especially important, with Rondo telling general manager Rob Pelinka during free agency, “If you go grab Cous, you got me.”
  • The Lakers have started listening to trade offers involving Kyle Kuzma, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. After hearing his name included in numerous rumors during his first two NBA seasons, Kuzma feels ready for whatever happens, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “I’ve been in trade rumors ever since I came here,” Kuzma said. “I think that’s just a thing that happens when you’re a Laker. You’re always in trade rumors, especially in this time, so it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. Just control what you can control.”

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southeast Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southeast Division:

Allen Crabbe, Hawks, 27, SG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $74.8MM deal in 2016
Remember when the Nets thought so highly of Crabbe they signed him to a giant offer sheet? And the Trail Blazers valued him so much they matched the offer sheet? And then Brooklyn wanted him so badly it traded for Crabbe the following summer? It all seems so silly now. The Nets were willing to give up two future first-rounders to get rid of Crabbe. Now in the final year of that odious contract, he’s averaging 5.0 PPG and shooting 28.8% from 3-point range. Crabbe will probably be looking at veteran’s minimum offers next season as he attempts to reboot his career.

Bismack Biyombo, Hornets, 27, C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $72MM deal in 2016
Like Crabbe, Biyombo got silly money in the summer of 2016 after a solid playoff performance with Toronto. Orlando quickly got a case of buyer’s remorse and he was eventually shipped to Charlotte in 2018. To his credit, Biyombo has worked his way into the rebuilding Hornets’ rotation. He’s posted double digits in points six times this month while averaging 8.0 RPG in 22.1 MPG. Traditional big men like Biyombo are being phased out of the league, so he won’t attract a lot of interest. But he’s shown he can be a rotation piece somewhere.

Meyers Leonard, Heat, 27, PF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $41MM deal in 2016
Another player who cashed in during the summer of 2016, Leonard has never averaged more than 8.4 PPG or 5.1 RPG. Other than avid Heat fans, few people realize that Leonard has started 30 games for one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams. He doesn’t often finish games but he’s endeared himself enough to coach Erik Spoelstra to keep his spot in the lineup. Leonard doesn’t shoot a lot of threes but he makes them (48.3%). He’s also making an impact on the boards (23 in the last two games). As a stretch four alone, Leonard will draw interest as an unrestricted free agent.

D.J. Augustin, Magic, 32, PG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $29MM deal in 2016
Markelle Fultz is playing regularly but Augustin is still receiving steady playing time from coach Steve Clifford. Augustin threw in a two-point clunker against Chicago on Monday but in his previous four games he averaged 18.5 PPG and 5.3 APG. While Augustin’s overall shooting numbers are down, he can still be a productive rotation player. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Orlando brought back Augustin in a reserve role. If not, he still has enough left in the tank to be someone’s backup floor leader.

Davis Bertans, Wizards, 27, SF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $14.5MM deal in 2018
Bertans was enjoying a breakout season until he was sidelined recently by a quad injury. Bertans was averaging 15.4 PPG and 4.9 RPG in 30.0 MPG while mostly coming off the bench for Washington. The Wizards have been feeding Bertans to ball beyond the arc and he’s consistently delivered, averaging 43.4% from deep on a whopping 8.6 attempts per game. Bertans’ prolific long range shooting is bound to get the unrestricted free agent some lucrative offers in this summer’s weak free agent class.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southeast Notes: Augustin, Thomas, Waiters, Wall

Magic point guard D.J. Augustin plans to play until he’s 35 or 36, as he told Sean Deveney of Forbes.com. Given that Augustin turns 32 next month, that would mean another three or four seasons in the league. Augustin began this season as the Magic’s starter at the point, though the team hopes that Markelle Fultz eventually emerges in that role. Augustin, an unrestricted free agent next summer, averaged 11.7 PPG and 5.3 APG last season while making 42.1% of his 3-pointers.

“I have sacrificed a lot, I am away from my kids a lot. They’re getting older,” the Magic point guard said. “I think 35, 36 would be a good age for me to be done and just spend time with them and be more involved with their lives.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Isaiah Thomas showed flashes of his former MVP self in his Wizards’ debut on Saturday night, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. He had 16 points, five assists and three rebounds in less than 20 minutes after recovering from a thumb injury. Thomas joined the Wizards on a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal after a forgettable season with the Nuggets. “There’s going to be some bad days. There’s going to be some good days,” he said. “But I’m going to be even keel throughout the process knowing that if I keep taking steps forward, I’m going to get closer to where I was and hopefully surpass that.”
  • It will interesting to see if the chemistry the Heat have forged thus far will be disrupted by the returns of Dion Waiters and James Johnson, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes. The shooting of Waiters and defense of Johnson can still help the team, though it played with a sense of togetherness in a win over the Bucks on Saturday, Winderman adds. Both are signed through the 2020/21 season, though Johnson has a player option.
  • Wizards point guard John Wall and Adidas are negotiating a buyout on his five-year footwear and apparel endorsement contract less than two years into the agreement, ESPN’s Nick DePaula reports. Wall, who is expected to miss the season as he recovers from an Achilles tear, was due to make nearly $25MM on the endorsement contract.

Magic Notes: Fultz, Bamba, Augustin, Gordon

In his first game with the Magic, Markelle Fultz showed off some of the skills that made him the top pick in the 2017 draft, writes Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Playing for the first time since last November, Fultz had six points, four assists, two rebounds and an electrifying dunk in a win over the Spurs.

“It was really just a blessing,” Fultz said. “I give a lot of praise to the man up top, God. It’s all I can say. It was my first time out there in a long time and I’m just happy I was able to step out on the floor and compete.”

Orlando acquired Fultz from the Sixers in February after a frustrating season and a half in Philadelphia that was marked by physical issues and a jump shot that went haywire. His latest ailment, diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome, had kept him sidelined since last November 19. He received full medical clearance before camp opened and was determined to play in the preseason opener.

“It means the world to me just to see him out there,” teammate Mohamed Bamba said. “I asked him, ‘How you feeling?’ and he’s like, ‘I feel great. The game’s coming slower and it’s coming easier to me by the minute.’ It felt good to see him out there having fun.”

There’s more this morning from Orlando:

  • Bamba was also happy to be back on the court Saturday after missing the final 30 games of last season and the team’s playoff run with a foot injury, Parry notes in a separate story. After an 18-point, six-rebound and three-block performance, Bamba is optimistic about his sophomore campaign. “I had a lot of time to think about the upcoming season,” he said. “It’s just a preseason game and it doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but it felt good to get out there and just run with the guys.”
  • Coach Steve Clifford plans to use Fultz and D.J. Augustin together in the backcourt, Parry relays in another piece. Even though they’re both listed as point guards, Clifford believes Fultz’s ability to defend bigger players will make the combination work. “They’re both super-skilled,” he said. “They both play with a point guard mentality and then you’ve got two really good pick-and-roll players.”
  • Clifford also plans to play Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac together at center and power forward, tweets Dave DuFour of The Athletic.