LOS ANGELES — As the Lakers tipped off Tuesday night, DJ Augustin was still making his way to town. But Frank Vogel, who coached the 34-year-old point guard in previous stints in Indiana and Orlando, said they had already exchanged a few texts.
In the midst of a season in need of some kind of shake-up, Vogel sounded as excited as anyone to bring Augustin into the fold.
“I know his game really well,” Vogel said before Tuesday’s game against Dallas. “He gets in late tonight – we’ll be able to sit down and talk more in depth about where he fits on our team. But I like what he brings to the table, not just with the off-ball ability, to shoot the basketball and stretch the floor and give our guys more space.”
Augustin is slated to be the Lakers’ backup point guard behind Russell Westbrook, and while Vogel said he’s expected to provide “depth,” his enthusiasm suggested that the 5-foot-11 veteran might be in the rotation mix.
He brings much-needed shooting (40.6% from 3-point range) and could help the team’s playmaking in secondary units. When All-Star big man Anthony Davis gets healthy, Vogel envisions Augustin being a key cog in smaller lineups.
“When he played with (Nikola Vucevic), I thought, he had his best stretch of his career,” Vogel said. “He’s a very, very good pocket-pass and pick-and-roll playmaker. And you have to go over his pick-and-rolls from him or he will beat you over the top.
It was only possible to sign Augustin after waiving veteran center DeAndre Jordan, who had recently been out of the Lakers rotation. Media reports have tracked interest from Philadelphia, which could add Jordan as a backup center either off of waivers or once he clears.
“We wish DeAndre well,” Vogel said. “It was really just a need thing. He had an opportunity to have a bigger role somewhere else, he felt. And we granted that to him.”
Augustin’s addition does bring into question other roster decisions. If the Lakers needed a backup point guard, why did they trade Rajon Rondo to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this winter?
On this point, Vogel was blunt: “Rondo was brought in here really to be a third-string point guard behind Russell – not to play with Russell. Their skill sets don’t fit. They don’t match on the floor. So he was not playing, or when he was playing, he wasn’t a good formula for us.”
Given that the Lakers need outside shooting, it stands out that Wayne Ellington is still on the roster, averaging 38.4% from behind the arc. But the veteran shooting guard has only played in 36 games this season, which Vogel said is an indication of how others have provided the lineup with more on the defensive end.
At one point, the Lakers hoped Kendrick Nunn might give them a backup point guard with some defensive upside. That hasn’t gone well: A right knee bone bruise has kept Nunn out for the entire regular season, and the most recent projected return timeline was set for late March. Vogel said acquiring Augustin didn’t rule out Nunn’s comeback.
“We just don’t know about Kendrick,” Vogel said. “We’re still hopeful that he comes around and is able to ramp up and do it without pain and the MRI comes back where we want to see it. It hasn’t happened yet. Until we see him back on the floor, we need help at that position and that skill set.”
The Lakers also added 6-foot-9 forward Wenyen Gabriel, who has played just seven NBA games this season, on a two-way contract while waiving Sekou Doumbouya to create the roster spot. Vogel said Gabriel is expected to be up with the Lakers rather than play for their South Bay G-League affiliate.
“Hopefully, we can get some practice time, we can see him and see what he can do up close and personal,” Vogel said. “But he has a skill set which fits what we need.
“The successful stints this year have been with Bron, Russ, AD and the younger, energetic guys. So, we’ll have to see what Wenyen brings to the table, but it is possible that he gets into the rotation and plays some.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism