D.J. Augustin, Darko Milicic

D.J. Augustin’s quasi-validation

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In my preseason mind, D.J. Augustin was destined to have a pretty crummy year for the Bobcats. He was coming off of a poor-shooting sophomore campaign in which his confidence was shredded by Larry Brown, and it was hard to imagine D.J. leading the ‘Cats to a successful season. Even if Charlotte somehow made the playoffs, it seemed likely that Augustin would merely be along for the ride.

Some of that was correct, and some of that is wrong. But to Augustin’s credit, he’s quietly put together a pretty impressive season so far. It’s just unfortunate that the same can’t be said for his team.

Augustin has made a full offensive rebound. His shooting percentages have started to trend toward his rookie season numbers, and his assists per 36 minutes have jumped from 4.7 to 7.5. Augustin isn’t a terrible offensive player, and it’s good to see him recapture some of the elements that made him such a fun rookie. But despite how impressive Augustin’s play has been, the Bobcats’ offense is as stagnant as ever. In relative terms, Charlotte’s offense jumped from 24th in the league last year to 21st this season, but they really only improved by 0.3 points per 100 possessions. I’ve got nothing against improvement (even of the marginal variety), but even Augustin’s offensive talents aren’t enough to compensate for Charlotte’s depressed defense.

The best defense in the league last season is currently ranked 15th overall, and Augustin is a part of that. His overall season may be better than expected, but Augustin’s defense is as poor as previously thought. He tries, he’s just too small to effectively challenge shots and tends to get caught on screens. It’s a bummer because Augustin’s heart really is in the right place (even if it’s clear he doesn’t value defensive possessions to the same level he does offensive ones), he’s just not well-suited to defend NBA point guards. Augustin can’t be blamed for the entirety of his team’s defensive drop-off, but there’s a distinct difference between Raymond Felton’s defense and Augustin’s.

So kudos to Augustin for his three straight games of 10 assists or more. Good on him that he has the highest assist-to-turnover ratio of any point guard in the league. It’s just not enough. The finer end of the floor calls Augustin to collect debt, and despite all that he’s earned on offense, he and the Bobcats still struggle to turn a profit.

LeBron James talked Justin Bieber out of performing at Donald Trump’s nominating convention

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 29: Justin Bieber drinks champagne at the podium during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 29, 2016 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Lars Baron/Getty Images
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With the Republican National Convention being held in Cleveland, you knew there was going to be a LeBron James influence.

It apparently kept Justin Bieber away from Donald Trump and Co.

TMZ

Justin Bieber got a $5 million offer to perform at a Republican event during the GOP Convention, but turned it down after his manager considered quitting and LeBron James urged him to reject it … sources tell TMZ.

That’s a lot of money for a single gig. This either speaks to the power of LeBron’s words — or the embellishment of Bieber’s value.

Watch Bulls’ Dwyane Wade press conference live (video)

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Dwyane Wade playing for a team other than the Heat will be strange.

You can get your first glimpse of that weirdness today, when the Bulls introduce Wade at 3 p.m. Eastern.

If the above video doesn’t load, click here to watch the press conference.

Russell Westbrook laughs off Kevin Durant question (video)

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, right, gestures after scoring as forward Kevin Durant stands by during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Thunder won 117-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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How does Russell Westbrook feel about Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder for the Warriors?

Westbrook has been silent on the signing, leaving Durant and anonymous sources to speak on his behalf — and the NBA world hungry for his response.

The first glimpse:

Feel free to read way too much into that laugh.

(hat tip: reddit user esoh)

Phil Jackson: ‘Today’s players simply lack the skills to play the triangle’

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks to reporters during a news conference in Greenburgh, N.Y., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Derek Fisher was fired as New York Knicks coach Monday, with his team having lost five straight and nine of 10 to fall well back in the Eastern Conference playoff race. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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See whether you can follow this timeline:

1. Knicks president Phil Jackson stated his commitment to the triangle offense entering the 2015-16 season.

2. Jackson in a December interview published today, via Charley Rosen of Today’s Fastbreak:

Today’s players simply lack the skills to play the triangle. They know how to play one-on-one, catch-and-shoot, and they’ve mastered crossover dribbles, spins, playing off of screens and step-back shots. They don’t know how to execute things like inside-reverse pivots and other basic footwork. They have no sense of timing or organization. They don’t really know how to play five-on-five basketball. It’s strictly generational.

That’s why Fish {Derek Fisher} wants to uptempo the offense. And why he spends a half-hour before practice doing lots of skills work.

3. Jackson fires coach Derek Fisher, who — according to interim coach Kurt Rambis — resisted the triangle.

4. Jackson said the Knicks would continue to run the triangle and even ran a triangle camp for New York players.

5. Jackson hired Jeff Hornacek, who has little triangle experience, and said the new coach wouldn’t have to run the triangle.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

Maybe Jackson, relying on his December thoughts, finally changed his mind about the triangle. Maybe he believes players can still be taught triangle skills and actually plans to have Hornacek use the system.

Or maybe the Knicks are just rudderless.