CHICAGO -- D.J. Augustin got his indoctrination into Tom Thibodeau-style basketball with the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night. After playing 46 minutes, 24 seconds in a 100-84 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Augustin had to leave the game because he had a cramp in his hamstring. Such is life when you're playing for one of the most demanding -- and successful -- coaches in the league. After all that Augustin and the Bulls have been through over the past couple weeks, the veteran guard happily gutted a great performance out.
"It's hard," Augustin admitted after scoring 18 points, dishing out 10 assists and grabbing 5 rebounds. "Your body's not ready for that."
In the span of two weeks, Augustin has gone from a little-used backup for the Toronto Raptors to the starting point guard for a Bulls team that has been in disarray because of injuries. In the process, Augustin has solidified his position as the backup point guard of the near future for the Bulls. He has been able to run the offense, knock down shots and get his teammates involved -- all the things that Thibodeau has been searching for in a point guard since Derrick Rose went down Nov. 22.
"He's been great, just the way he plays," Thibodeau said. "He plays with a lot of poise. There's a good pace to him. He knows how to read things really well. He reads when guys are coming off screens and being defended. He has the ability to pass on time and on target. He has guys in rhythm."
Augustin has played so well that he has earned more minutes no matter when Kirk Hinrich (back stiffness) comes back. He has outplayed struggling rookie Marquis Teague and is slowly finding the confidence that had deserted him over the past couple of seasons.
"He's getting a shot to play big minutes," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "And you can tell this game is all about confidence and rhythm. And I think he's getting into a rhythm, he's getting comfortable knowing people's tendencies and looking to score, being aggressive -- we need that out of him and he's been doing a great job."
Augustin has a fresh appreciation for the standard of play that Noah and his new teammates have established over the past few years.
"I hated playing against the Bulls," he said. "Because it's a grind-out team. They're going to play defense every night and they're going to fight you and be tough and I hated playing against them. Now, I love being a part of it."
He also loves having Thibodeau in his corner. For a guy who wasn't sure where his future in the league would be, he's enjoying being able to play again and have fun. Playing for Thibodeau may be tough, as players have told him, but it's not that bad.
"I played for Larry Brown (in Charlotte) my first three years and he was pretty tough," Augustin said. "So I feel like I can handle it. He's only trying to make me better, not bring me down, and it's really helping me."