WILMINGTON, N.C. – It appeared early this summer that Toronto's Jose Calderon would become Charlotte's point guard. Then the Bobcats appeared poised to acquire Devin Harris from New Jersey to replace the departed Raymond Felton.
Deals for those players stalled, however. And while the trade-happy Bobcats may not be through dealing, the starting job now falls to a guy who acknowledges his confidence was shot during a miserable 2009-10 season: D.J. Augustin.
"If you play in the NBA with no confidence you're going to have a tough situation," Augustin said Tuesday after the Bobcats' first practice of training camp. "I struggled last year."
The slight, 6-foot Augustin had a steep fall from an impressive rookie season. The ninth pick in the 2008 draft averaged 11.8 points and led all rookies by shooting 89 percent from the free-throw line. He also shot 44 percent from 3-point range and made the NBA All-Rookie second team.
But late that season Augustin pulled an abdominal muscle. The injury kept him out of games and then sidelined him for much of the summer.
He returned last season a bit overweight and with demanding coach Larry Brown constantly in his ear. He made 5 of his first 21 3-point attempts and had a seven-game stretch early in the season in which he shot 6 of 27 from the field. Things got so bad he didn't get off the bench in consecutive December games.
"I think he got down," forward Gerald Wallace said. "I think he had a couple of DNPs and I think that really broke his confidence and made him focus on his shot."
Things didn't get much better, with Augustin still having some abdominal pain. He averaged just 6.4 points and shot 39 percent from the field as Brown turned to other players to back up Felton late in the season.
"I was tough on him and I don't know if he handled it great," Brown said. "I think really he was hurt. He didn't have an opportunity last summer to work. I think that set him back a little bit. Toward the end of the year he started getting back."
Augustin said he took only one week off after Charlotte was swept by Orlando in the first round of the playoffs and started working out. He ran nearly every day, did pilates, lifted weights and even showed up for some summer-league workouts in Orlando.
He still weighs only about 175 pounds, but said he's gained strength.
"I wanted to get stronger in case guys like Deron Williams try to post me up, which the will do," Augustin said. "I just want to be able to hold my ground and be stronger."
Barring another trade, Charlotte's starting point guard job is Augustin's to lose because there are numerous questions behind him.
Newly signed Shaun Livingston was limited Tuesday as he recovers from a severe knee injury, Javaris Crittenton is trying to return from a foot injury and his gun suspension from last season in Washington. Sherron Collins is an undrafted rookie.
Augustin must still win over Brown, notoriously tough on point guards, and who holds a soft spot for Felton. Despite being schooled by Jameer Nelson in the playoffs, Brown said "I died" when Felton signed with New York because "everything I value he did."
Augustin isn't as strong as Felton, but is a better shooter — when he's not in a funk.
"He looks so much better physically," Brown said of Augustin. "He's got more muscle and less fat. His weight is pretty low and he seems much more confident."
Confidence may be the key issue, however. The quiet 23-year-old New Orleans native needs to regain the swagger he had in college in Texas and as a rookie.
"He's probably the best shooter we've got on our team," Wallace said. "When he starts doubting himself it hurts him out on the court. Our main thing is to keep his head held high.
"It's going to be a task for him. This is only his third year, so we can't expect him to come out and perform like a veteran point guard. But us as veterans have got to help him get through these tough times."
But it will only work if he's confident.
"It's definitely an opportunity," Augustin said. "I'm going into this training camp not thinking I'm getting anything. I want to earn minutes and my teammates respect."
Notes: Brown was pleased with the opening workout, saying Wallace, Jackson and Boris Diaw "made the practice" because they "led by example." ... Brown said he gave a "fat test" and Wallace, Livingston and Tyrus Thomas had the least body fat. ... Reserve F Eduardo Najera won't be able to practice for three weeks as he recovers from hernia surgery on Sept. 10. ... F Darius Miles is being limited in workouts because of his chronic knee problems. ... Former NBA head coaches Eddie Jordan and Mike Woodson took in the morning practice.