Lakers’ Frank Vogel happy to bring DJ Augustin to backcourt – Press Enterprise

LOS ANGELES — When the Lakers rang Tuesday night, DJ Augustin was still on his way into town. But Frank Vogel, who coached the 34-year-old point guard at previous stints in Indiana and Orlando, said they had already exchanged some texts.

In the midst of a season that required some sort of restructuring, Vogel sounded as excited as anyone to bring Augustin to the team.

“I know his game very well,” Vogel said ahead of Tuesday’s game against Dallas. “He’s arriving late tonight – we can sit down and talk more about where he fits into 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 boys more space.

Augustin is slated to be the Lakers’ backup point guard behind Russell Westbrook, and while Vogel said he should provide “depth,” his enthusiasm suggested the 5-foot-11 veteran could be in the rotational mix.

He brings much-needed shooting (40.6% from 3-point range) and could help the team build play in secondary units. When big All-Star man Anthony Davis recovers, Vogel envisions Augustin will be a key tooth in smaller lineups.

“When he played with (Nikola Vucevic), I thought he was having the best period of his career,” Vogel said. “He’s a very, very good pocket pass and pick and roll playmaker. And you have to go through his pick and rolls or he’ll beat you beyond measure.”

It was only possible to sign Augustin after giving up veteran center DeAndre Jordan, who recently retired from the Lakers rotation. Media reports have noted interest from Philadelphia that Jordan could add as a backup center, either due to waivers or after its release.

“We wish DeAndre the best,” Vogel said. “It was really just a necessity. He had an opportunity to play a bigger role elsewhere, he felt. And we granted him that.”

Augustine’s addition challenges other roster decisions. If the Lakers needed a replacement point guard, why did they sell Rajon Rondo to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this winter?

At this point, Vogel was blunt: “Rondo was brought here to be a third-string point guard behind Russell — not to play with Russell. Your skills don’t match. They don’t fit on the floor. So he wasn’t playing, or when he was playing, he wasn’t a good formula for us.”

Given that the Lakers need outside shots, it’s striking that Wayne Ellington is still on the list, averaging 38.4% behind the arc. But the veteran shooting guard has only played 36 games this season, which Vogel says is an indication of how others have infused the lineup with more defensiveness.

At one point, the Lakers were hoping that Kendrick Nunn could give them a backup point guard with some defensive advantages. That didn’t go well: A bruised bone in his right knee kept Nunn out for the entirety of the regular season, and the last projected return schedule was set for late March. Vogel said the Augustin acquisition doesn’t rule out Nunn’s comeback.

“We just don’t know anything about Kendrick,” Vogel said. “We’re still hoping that he comes around and is able to boot 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 ground we need help in that position and with those skills.”

The Lakers also signed 6-foot-9 forward Wenyen Gabriel, who has only played seven NBA games this season, to a two-way contract while giving up Sekou Doumbouya to make the roster spot. Vogel said Gabriel is more likely to be with the Lakers than playing 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,” Vogel said. “But he has skills that match 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’s possible he could come into the rotation and play something.”


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