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October 20, 2014

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NBA Day 5: Point(s) taken; Hill begins transition

Point(s) taken - Golden State 99, Charlotte 93

D.J. Augustin apparently didn't realize that when you're the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft, your roster spot come opening night is all but guaranteed.

The Charlotte Bobcats' rookie point guard earned every single one of his team-high 30 points Tuesday night in the Thomas & Mack Center, though it wound up going towards a losing cause. Golden State triumphed in Tuesday's nightcap, 99-93.

Augustin also didn't get the message that Summer League losses don't count towards the regular season tally.

And that could be what has helped create such a fuss over him in recent years, as he rose to stardom in two seasons at Texas and now is about to live the dream.

The diminutive guard sat in the Bobcats' 'locker room' under the bleachers following the game with his head hanging, both collecting thoughts and resting a beaten body, his movements slow

Having taken the loss harder than most, he didn't have a ton to say.

"It was a tough game, both teams played hard and both teams wanted to win," he said softly. "It came down to whoever played harder and was more physical."

The contact Augustin took was beyond respectable, but was a bit lost in the shuffle, not only because of the loss, but since the 30-point feat was matched by Warriors Summer League super hero Marco Belinelli.

The 6-foot-6 Italian sniper of a combo guard, taken 18th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, created quite a buzz last summer in Vegas, averaging 22.8 points per game. He then was forgotten for much of the fall/winter/spring, struggling to crack Don Nelson's rotation (2.9 ppg in 33 games played).

He was back to his same old tricks Tuesday, dropping 30 points, including 21 in the first half on several quick-pop threes off of screens.

Combine that with the 25 points from hometown product C.J. Watson, and the backcourt combo made up for the absence of lottery pick Anthony Randolph, who sat out with a bum left ankle.

"(He needs to) Keep doing what he's doing, making open shots, making tough shots," Watson said of Belinelli. "We have him in the game to shoot the ball."

What Can Brown Do For You? - If Augustin didn't feel enough pressure with all the jitters surrounding his NBA debut Saturday, a special Bobcat guest was in the Cox Pavilion crowd evaluating the rookie's every move.

"I was a little nervous," admitted Augustin, of having newly-hired Charlotte coach Larry Brown eagle-eying him from the stands. "But it's been great having him here."

Brown, who didn't want to do interviews on Saturday, held practices with the Bobcats over the weekend before heading back to New York on Monday.

In that short amount of time the standout guard from Texas said he quickly soaked up all the info he could from the legendary Brown.

"He's been coaching us in practices. It's been great," said Augustin, who scored 14 points in his opener.

"I've been learning a lot from him, he really likes teaching and showing people what to do. I really like that."

While Augustin said all the Bobcat Summer League invitees were having a blast in Las Vegas, he couldn¹t tell if they were having more fun than the main man on the bench.

"He loves basketball. He's been coaching for a long time and at every level,' Augustin said of Brown. ³It¹s cool to see how excited he is being on the court with us - it's just a lot of fun right now."

This and that ... Augustin and Watson traded shots late in the game via the free throw line. Augustin went 10-of-11 at the stripe, while Watson was 13-of-16. Watson admitted afterwards both played the strategy of taking advantage of the refs' quick-triggers on the whistles ... One oddity in Augustin's line: No assists (he averaged 5.8 last season as a Longhorn and had at least two in each contest) ... UNLV product Louis Amundson had six points and four assists for Golden State in 20 minutes of run ...

An uphill battle - New Orleans 76, San Antonio 68

It became a common reaction during the latter portion of the first round in last month's NBA Draft: 'Who?'

One of those names was George Hill, a 6-foot-2 point column specialist from IUPUI selected 26th overall by San Antonio (and, yes, Spurs Summer League coach Mike Budenholzer knew off the top of his head that the acronym stands for 'Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis ... very impressive).

Some outside pressure to perform may fall upon hill, as he was selected ahead of bigger names such as Darrell Arthur, Donte Greene, Mario Chalmers and Chris Douglas-Roberts.

Hill certainly hasn't blown anyone away with numbers in his first two summer league contests in Vegas, including going scoreless on 0-for-10 shooting in the Spurs' 76-68 loss Tuesday to New Orleans at Thomas & Mack. But he's also in a position where, well, he really doesn't have to. At least not right away. His seven rebounds, four assists and ability to remain aggressive Tuesday were a shot in the right direction.

After averaging 21.5 points per game last season as a junior for the Jaguars, the Spurs' plan is to gradually morph Hill into a point guard. The room to grow is expansive, with perennial All-Star Tony Parker and stable vet Jacque Vaughn already in the fold.

But the recent success the Spurs have had when drafting late in the first round (i.e. Parker in '01, Leandrinho Barbosa in '03, Beno Udrih in '04), there's certainly reason to be intrigued by Hill.

"We thought he was a good leader, hard worker, good athlete," said Spurs GM R.C. Buford, who was sitting just off the floor. "We knew he'd have a learning curve to get to the point, but it appears that he will work hard enough to do that, and he really defends."

He proved his defensive prowess Monday in a 78-76 win over Memphis, where he was responsible for locking down O.J. Mayo as best he could. His best held Mayo to a tough 18 points on just 5-of-17 shooting.

Monday he was scrappy and defensively strong again, but showed the confidence Buford mentioned by immediately brushing off a blah offensive night by owning up to it in front of reporters outside the Spurs locker room.

"I have a lot of things I've gotta learn, and I think this is what my training camp and summer league is gonna be all about, learning how to have floor balance and how to be an all-natural point guard," Hill said.

Budenholzer summed up best why Hill's performance after the game in the locker room and hallway was encouraging.

"I think that's one of the things that makes him different. He's got a real confidence, a real strength and belief in himself," he said. "He doesn't get rattled, doesn't get affected. I thought he was incredible last night against O.J. Mayo, guarding him. He didn't change his demeanor from after a good game to a game where he has to learn from it. That's what makes get too pros, when they don't get too excited, don't get too frustrated."

A level head will be needed on a roster which doesn't see much annual turnover, and doesn't present rookies with automatic minutes right off the bat. Though Buford said Hill hasn't seemed intimidated by entering a vet-heavy roster.

"I don't think George has acted that way, and Tony for sure didn't," he said.

Well, does that mean he sees a bit of Parker in Hill?

"No ... Who knows," Buford added. "But I don't want to put that on him."

This and that ... James Gist, a rookie second-round pick out of Maryland, stole the show for the Spurs off the bench. The explosive leaper (here and here, too, for good measure) finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds in just 26 minutes. That total included an and-one slam in between two defenders late in the second half ... Bobby Brown, a point guard out of Cal State-Fullerton, led four Hornets in double figures with 15 points, including a couple of flashy open-floor jams ... The most recognizable name in the game was Julian Wright, and as he has been all week, he showed some good and some bad Tuesday. His final line contained a little of both. The good: 11 points, seven rebounds, three steals, two blocks. The bad: six personal fouls ... The Spurs had some brass in the stands. Along with the aforementioned Buford was head coach Gregg Popovich, sporting a silver post-playoff beard (and by that, meaning it looked as though it hadn't been trimmed since the playoffs) ...

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