The Bulls’ offense remains mired in mediocrity, ranking 29th in scoring and 28th in shooting. Just think where it would be without D.J. Augustin.
Following Nate Robinson as management’s latest stopgap hit, Augustin has been a revelation since the Bulls acquired him on waivers from the Raptors on Dec. 13. After consecutive 27-point games, Augustin now is averaging 13.0 points and 6.1 assists in just 29.8 minutes over 21 games with the Bulls.
“You have to be mentally tough to go through what he did,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “That’s what I like about him. He always has dealt with adversity in life and has been able to rise above it. When things weren’t going his way, he wasn’t pouting. He stayed ready and it shows.”
Augustin is shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range and playing well off Joakim Noah in screen-and-roll situations. He repeatedly has hit big late-game shots.
“He knows how to read defenses,” Thibodeau said. “He keeps the game simple. He makes quick decisions, makes the right play, hits the open man. It’s a great opportunity for him, but that’s the nature of the league. He needed us and we needed him.”
Deng’s disciple: On a teleconference to discuss Team USA pool players, U.S. national team coach Mike Krzyzewski got asked how Kyrie Irving will benefit from Luol Deng’s leadership with the Cavaliers. Krzyzewski coached both at Duke.
“Luol is one of the more talented players in the NBA and the very few times that he might be playing somebody that has a little bit more talent, he will never be out-competed,” Krzyzewski said. “To have that around Kyrie right now as he develops, I think is very opportunistic for him.”
For starters: In four starts, Taj Gibson is averaging 19 points on 52.4 percent shooting and 9.3 rebounds in 41.8 minutes.
“People don’t understand when you start and come off the bench, it’s a totally big difference,” Gibson said. “Coming off the bench, you’re stiff and have to be ready to jump in the game right away. When you start, you already have a nice sweat going.”
If Carlos Boozer remains out Friday with a sore left calf, Gibson will make his fifth start.
Survey says: In final Eastern Conference All-Star balloting, Derrick Rose finished fourth in the backcourt behind starters Dwayne Wade and Kyrie Irving and non-starter John Wall.
In frontcourt voting, Noah finished seventh, Deng 10th and Boozer 12th behind starters LeBron James, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.