Augustin needs confidence to keep Bobcats’ PG job

It appeared early this summer that Toronto’s Jose Calderon would

become Charlotte’s point guard. Then the Bobcats appeared poised to

acquire Devin Harris from New Jersey to replace the departed

Raymond Felton.

Deals for those players stalled, however. And while the

trade-happy Bobcats may not be through dealing, the starting job

now falls to a guy who acknowledges his confidence was shot during

a miserable 2009-10 season: D.J. Augustin.

”If you play in the NBA with no confidence you’re going to have

a tough situation,” Augustin said Tuesday after the Bobcats’ first

practice of training camp. ”I struggled last year.”

The slight, 6-foot Augustin had a steep fall from an impressive

rookie season. The ninth pick in the 2008 draft averaged 11.8

points and led all rookies by shooting 89 percent from the

free-throw line. He also shot 44 percent from 3-point range and

made the NBA All-Rookie second team.

But late that season Augustin pulled an abdominal muscle. The

injury kept him out of games and then sidelined him for much of the

summer.

He returned last season a bit overweight and with demanding

coach Larry Brown constantly in his ear. He made 5 of his first 21

3-point attempts and had a seven-game stretch early in the season

in which he shot 6 of 27 from the field. Things got so bad he

didn’t get off the bench in consecutive December games.

”I think he got down,” forward Gerald Wallace said. ”I think

he had a couple of DNPs and I think that really broke his

confidence and made him focus on his shot.”

Things didn’t get much better, with Augustin still having some

abdominal pain. He averaged just 6.4 points and shot 39 percent

from the field as Brown turned to other players to back up Felton

late in the season.

”I was tough on him and I don’t know if he handled it great,”

Brown said. ”I think really he was hurt. He didn’t have an

opportunity last summer to work. I think that set him back a little

bit. Toward the end of the year he started getting back.”

Augustin said he took only one week off after Charlotte was

swept by Orlando in the first round of the playoffs and started

working out. He ran nearly every day, did pilates, lifted weights

and even showed up for some summer-league workouts in Orlando.

He still weighs only about 175 pounds, but said he’s gained

strength.

”I wanted to get stronger in case guys like Deron Williams try

to post me up, which the will do,” Augustin said. ”I just want to

be able to hold my ground and be stronger.”

Barring another trade, Charlotte’s starting point guard job is

Augustin’s to lose because there are numerous questions behind

him.

Newly signed Shaun Livingston was limited Tuesday as he recovers

from a severe knee injury, Javaris Crittenton is trying to return

from a foot injury and his gun suspension from last season in

Washington. Sherron Collins is an undrafted rookie.

Augustin must still win over Brown, notoriously tough on point

guards, and who holds a soft spot for Felton. Despite being

schooled by Jameer Nelson in the playoffs, Brown said ”I died”

when Felton signed with New York because ”everything I value he

did.”

Augustin isn’t as strong as Felton, but is a better shooter –

when he’s not in a funk.

”He looks so much better physically,” Brown said of Augustin.

”He’s got more muscle and less fat. His weight is pretty low and

he seems much more confident.”

Confidence may be the key issue, however. The quiet 23-year-old

New Orleans native needs to regain the swagger he had in college in

Texas and as a rookie.

”He’s probably the best shooter we’ve got on our team,”

Wallace said. ”When he starts doubting himself it hurts him out on

the court. Our main thing is to keep his head held high.

”It’s going to be a task for him. This is only his third year,

so we can’t expect him to come out and perform like a veteran point

guard. But us as veterans have got to help him get through these

tough times.”

Brown suggested he might dump some of the ballhandling chores on

Wallace, Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw. That could allow Augustin,

more of a scoring point guard than Felton, to thrive.

But it will only work if he’s confident.

”It’s definitely an opportunity,” Augustin said. ”I’m going

into this training camp not thinking I’m getting anything. I want

to earn minutes and my teammates respect.”

Notes: Brown was pleased with the opening workout, saying

Wallace, Jackson and Boris Diaw ”made the practice” because they

”led by example.” … Brown said he gave a ”fat test” and

Wallace, Livingston and Tyrus Thomas had the least body fat. …

Reserve F Eduardo Najera won’t be able to practice for three weeks

as he recovers from hernia surgery on Sept. 10. … F Darius Miles

is being limited in workouts because of his chronic knee problems.

… Former NBA head coaches Eddie Jordan and Mike Woodson took in

the morning practice.