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updated: 1/12/2014 6:12 PM

Augustin a big part of Bulls' push to .500

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  • Bulls guard D.J. Augustin has "just been huge" for the team, according to Kirk Hinrich.

      Bulls guard D.J. Augustin has "just been huge" for the team, according to Kirk Hinrich.
    Associated Press

 
 

It didn't take long for Cartier Martin to feel at home with the Bulls.

Plugged into Luol Deng's former locker stall at the United Center, Martin found himself next to guard D.J. Augustin. Martin's first NBA experience came as a D-League call up with Charlotte in January 2009, and Augustin was a fellow Bobcats rookie.

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"Me and D.J., we've been pretty good friends since that first year we played together," Martin said after the Bulls beat Charlotte on Saturday. "I wouldn't say he took me under his wing, but he kind of showed me the ins and outs of Charlotte when I came in. He lives in Houston. I'm from Houston. So over the years, we stayed in touch."

Augustin, who joined the Bulls on Dec. 13, and Martin, who signed a 10-day contract on Friday, combined for 31 points in the Bulls' fifth-straight victory.

The Bulls have won eight of their last 10 games and could push their record to .500 with a win over Washington on Monday. They've done all of this without Derrick Rose (injured) and most of it without Luol Deng (traded), while Jimmy Butler missed Saturday's game with a left thigh bruise.

This has been a surprising surge, to say the least, and Augustin has been a big reason for it. In some ways, he's this year's version of Nate Robinson. But in other ways, he's the anti-Robinson.

Like Robinson, the hero of last year's playoff run, Augustin is an undersized point guard who filled in for an injured Rose. But while Robinson's best skill was instant offense, Augustin's strength is his knack for reading defenses and creating assists.

Augustin finished with 12 assists against his former team on Saturday and keyed a decisive 11-0 run in the fourth quarter by driving the baseline and finding Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson for easy baskets, or flipping it out to an open 3-point shooter.

"I was just playing," Augustin said after the game. "They were, what you call, icing it (on defense). Every time I caught it on the wing, they were forcing me baseline and tried to trap me. All I did was just drive it. Jo did a great job of rolling and Taj and I just found those guys in the middle."

Another strange thing about Augustin's success with the Bulls is things ended badly with his last three teams. He couldn't agree on a contract extension with Charlotte, played for Indiana last year and wasn't welcomed back. Then he played sparingly for Toronto early this season and was released when the Raptors needed to clear a spot for the players acquired in the Rudy Gay trade.

The lead in Sunday's Charlotte Observer said it best: Who was that confident, aggressive guy wearing Augustin's jersey for the Bulls? Apparently, he's nothing like the guy who wrapped up his Bobcats career in 2012.

"He's a true point guard," Kirk Hinrich said. "You can't speak for the situations he's been in before this. He's a well-respected player in this league, in my opinion, and he's just been huge for us."

So the explanation is simple: The Bulls keep winning because they still have a decent nucleus of players, while a couple of discarded guys have fit in well. Granted, Martin has played in just one game.

"The NBA, it's just opportunity and situation," Augustin said. "Maybe those last two teams I was with weren't the best situation for my game and for myself. I love playing for coach Thibs and playing with these guys, who are very smart and great players. It makes me look better."

The sum of the spare parts has looked pretty good, lately.

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