Stephen Jackson, D.J. Augustin, Gerald Wallace

There’s no pressure on D.J. Augustin…except for running his team’s offense

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Pardon me for being redundant, but the Charlotte Bobcats are going to have a very uncomfortable season if D.J. Augustin remains their starting point guard. It’s not that the Bobcats’ roster has any superior alternatives, but this team is hurting badly for a true replacement for Raymond Felton, and Augustin isn’t the man.

Only for now, he has to be. Shaun Livingston is injured, Sherron Collins is Sherron Collins, and handing over control of the offense to Stephen Jackson on a full-time basis is a recipe for failure. Augustin is Charlotte’s great hope at point guard, and at best, he’s a sweet shooter, a decent playmaker, and a defensive sieve. More realistically, he’s still a bad defender while shooting well from outside (where Augustin has shot 42% for his career) and displaying questionable decision-making. Raymond Felton wasn’t some idyllic point guard, but his defense and steady play helped turn the Bobcats into a legitimate playoff team, and Augustin’s promotion rocks the boat. Charlotte still seems due for a repeat playoff appearance, but with such uncertainty at the point, nothing seems safe.

The Bobcats, for their part, are predictably singing Augustin’s praises, and Augustin, for his, is playing confident. From Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse:

With his safety net gone, Augustin has become the quiet key to the upstart Charlotte Bobcats, prepared to show now he belongs in the NBA, and they belong back in the playoffs. “Nacho Libre (Augustin), he’s the head to this monster,” [Stephen] Jackson said. “And as he goes, we’ll go this season. We need him to succeed. We need him to run things the proper way. And I think will. He’s going to surprise all those people who already counted him out.”

…The Bobcats reached the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season, winning 44 games, but the prospects of improving, or even repeating, clearly rests with Augustin. “There’s no pressure, it’s just basketball,” Augustin said. “I can’t tell you about the future, but I hope to make us better. I’ve got to be ready.”

First and foremost: it cannot be ignored that D.J. Augustin’s nickname is apparently “Nacho Libre.” Alrighty then.

Augustin doesn’t see running the Bobcats as a high-pressure situation (or if he does, is smart enough not to express that concern publicly), and this is a good thing. No one wants to see Augustin caught like a deer in the headlights of Larry Brown’s 18-wheeler, and he needs to believe he can do the job even if those of us on the outside suppose that he can’t. There’s nothing wrong with what Augustin said, with the exception that it’s wrong. There is pressure. The Bobcats aren’t a team shooting for the title, they’re aiming for the back end of the playoffs and the sweet, sweet revenue they provide. There is pressure to perform. There is pressure to appease LB. There is pressure to keep Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, and all of Augustin’s Bobcats teammates happy while still running the show efficiently.

Pretending otherwise is foolish, and yet that’s exactly what we demand Augustin do as a part of the media game.

Kobe Bryant went from DeMar DeRozan’s idol to his friend

Kobe Bryant, DeMar DeRozan
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TORONTO (AP) — DeMar DeRozan was 16 when he was invited to Kobe Bryant‘s camp for the top 25 American high school shooting guards.

A friendship grew between the youngster who would become an All-Star for the Toronto Raptors and the player who would become the third-leading scorer in NBA history.

DeRozan talked at length Sunday night about Bryant, who announced on The Players’ Tribune that he’ll retire after the season, capping a 20-year NBA career.

“The knowledge that he tended to give me every time I got the chance to be around him, especially at a young age, carrying over to the league, it was definitely an honor,” DeRozan said after the Raptors’ 107-102 loss Sunday night to Phoenix. “I tried to listen as much as possible, soak in as much as I could all of the time. It’s crazy how much time flies.”

Bryant was DeRozan’s favorite player while growing up in Compton, Calif.

“I’ve tried to emulate and learn so much from him ever since I was a kid, watching every single game growing up in Los Angeles, having a chance to get with him and learn from him, from conversations even when I was in high school from playing against him, completing against him, being in big games with him,” said DeRozan, who scored 29 points in Sunday’s loss. “It’s definitely a sad, sad day, but he’s been in the game a long time.”

Bryant’s announcement came just before the Lakers’ game against the visiting Indiana Pacers. Fans at the game received a letter of thanks from the 37-year-old player in a black envelope embossed with gold.

Bryant has struggled mightily with injuries the past several years, and is shooting a career-worst 32 percent this season.

“It don’t matter. That man has five rings, 17 all-stars, MVP,” DeRozan said. “There’s nothing he hasn’t done. It’s just father time catching up with him, injuries catching up with him this past year. People will appreciate it when he’s away from the game.”

DeRozan has his favorite Kobe memory – Bryant scoring 81 points against Toronto in 2006. DeRozan, who would join the Raptors as a rookie three years later, said he felt as if he was playing a video game watching the high-scoring spectacle unfold on TV.

DeRozan is in his seventh season with Toronto. He can’t imagine playing 20 years.

“Especially playing at a high level, doing the things he was doing … people don’t understand how hard that is,” DeRozan said. “Even now, a lot of us find ourselves tired (on) back-to-backs. It’s tough. It’s really tough. To do it 20 years at a high level, you have to give that man every credit in the world.”

Hornets’ Al Jefferson out 2-3 weeks with strained calf

Al Jefferson
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The Hornets have been playing well of late, going 7-3 in their last 10 and outscoring opponents by 6.3 points per 100 possessions. They are solidly in the playoff picture out East, in the six slot right now.

This is not going to help matters.

The team announced that an MRI confirmed center Al Jefferson will be out two to three weeks with a strained left calf muscle, suffered during Charlotte’s 87-82 win over Milwaukee on Sunday.

Jefferson missing a few weeks due to injury at some point during the season is an annual event, like the Rose Parade or the Head of the Charles Regatta — but this year the Hornets are better prepared to deal with it. This is the deepest Charlotte team in recent memory.

Tyler Hansbrough, Cody Zeller, and Frank Kaminsky will get more run — plus Spencer Hawes may be back in the rotation — and if they can step up the Hornets will not slow down much.

This season the Hornets defense has been downright stingy when Jefferson is on the bench, giving up 94.2 points per 100 possessions (which is 10 better than when he is on the court). However, the Hornet offense and rebounding efforts are stronger when he plays.

PBT Extra: How did Thunder, Pacers move up in PBT Power Rankings?

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As they do every Monday during the season, the PBT Power Rankings came out and while the top three remained the same there were some climbers.

Specifically, the Thunder at No. 4 and the Pacers at No. 5.

Why they are there is the latest PBT Extra topic with Jenna Corrado. The simple answer is they are both excellent teams. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Paul George are all playing like Top 10 players.

PBT Podcast: We’re back talking Kobe, 76ers, Warriors, Pistons, more

Kobe Bryant
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The ProBasketballTalk NBA podcast is back.

Sure we’re a month into the season, but we’re going to get this podcast rolling again and you can expect us on each Monday and Thursday, with a variety of guests talking everything around the NBA.

Today NBC’s own Dan Feldman joins Kurt Helin to talk Kobe Bryant‘s retirement announcement, and what that means both for the Lakers going forward this season and beyond, but also what that could mean for Byron Scott’s future as the Lakers’ coach.

We also delve into the “showdown” between the Lakers and Sixers on Thursday, talk about the job Brett Brown is doing there as coach (a good one), we talk some Warriors, some Draymond Green, Pistons, Spurs and Pacers to round it all out.

Listen to the podcast below or you can listen and subscribe via iTunes.