D.J. Augustin returned home Thursday.
This time it was his real home, not the seven different cities he’s had to call home during his eight seasons in the NBA.
Just 28, Augustin is already a journeyman.
He’s suited up for almost one-fourth of the teams in the league since turning pro in 2008.
His name has been on the back of seven different NBA jerseys: the Charlotte Bobcats, the Indiana Pacers, the Toronto Raptors, the Chicago Bulls, the Detroit Pistons, the Oklahoma City Thunder and currently the Denver Nuggets.
His long, winding journey brought him back to New Orleans on Thursday night as the Nuggets came to town to play the Pelicans. He finished with nine points and eight assists in Thursday’s 101-95 loss.
But even in defeat, he was glad to be back in the 504 area code.
“There’s nothing like home and I love coming back,” Augustine said.
Because of the constant trades and the way the schedule fell, it was his first game back home since February of 2014 when he led the Bulls with 23 points in an 88-79 loss.
There were many in attendance who were anxious for his return, including about 20 something family members.
There was also Renato Mazariegos, who sat in section 114 of the Smoothie King Center with a sign that read “Welcome Home D.J.” on one side and “D.J. the G.O.A.T. ” on the other.
The G.O.A.T. of course, meaning the Greatest of All-Time.
“He’s the greatest to ever play at Brother Martin,” Mazariegos said.
John Lavie, who sat in Suite 231, wouldn’t argue with that.
Lavie coached Augustin during his playing days at Brother Martin when he helped lead the team to back-to-back state championships as a sophomore and a junior.
“And we would have won it the next year if it wasn’t for (Hurricane) Katrina,” Lavie said.
Katrina is still fresh on his mind every time he returns, even 11 years later.
“When I come back, I still get that eery feeling,” he said. “But I get to see my family and some of the familiar things I used to eat when I was here and that kinda cheers me up.
But it’s always going to be an eery feeling when I come back.”
The storm sent Augustin and his family to Houston for his senior year and he was named to the McDonald’s All-American Game before going on to star for two seasons at the University of Texas.
He was chosen with the No. 9 pick of the draft by the Bobcats eight years ago.
Lavie knew he was pro long before that when he used to dazzle during games at Brother Martin’s Conlin Gymnasium.
“You certainly thought he was an NBA player back then, but you didn’t want to put the hex on him,” Lavie said. “But with him, it didn’t really matter anyway. He was clearly at another level. He was really amazing to watch... I’m proud of his contributions to New Orleans basketbal. He has certainly carried the torch well for so many of us who have coached and played here.”
Augustin entered Thursday night’s contest just four days after one of his best performances since being traded to the Nuggets from OKC in mid-February.
He scored 18 points and dropped a season-high tying 10 assists against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday for his 22nd career double-double and second since joining Denver.
Augustin, the Nuggets’ sixth man, is averaging 7.6 points and 3.2 assists per game.
“D.J.’s been terrific,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “He has given us a great scoring spark off the bench. He has played under control with a great assist turnover ratio and I close a lot of the games with him on the floor. He’s somebody we can trust.”
Malone especially trusts his newcomer late in games. Since joining the team, Augustine is 13th in the NBA in scoring in the fourth quarter. In the process, the Nuggets posted their first winning month of the season in March.
“A lot of the games that we’ve won, we probably wouldn’t have won without D.J. being here,” Malone said. “He has stepped up and made plays for us time and time again.”
Denver General Manager Tim Connelly said he’s been a welcome addition to the team.
“He brought a much-needed infusion of shooting and playmaking,” Connelly said. “And he has such a veteran calmness about him. He’s a great person too. When I finally met him, it was like I already knew him because I had heard so many great things about him.”
Malone said he’s handled the journeyman role just fine.
“He’s a pro,” Malone said. “He’s bounced around quite a bit. We are very happy to have him and we’ll see what happens in the offseason.”
Augustin is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and could possibly be making some other NBA city his home.
“I love Denver,” he said. “I love the city. I feel great here. I’m not looking forward to that now. I’m just looking to finish the season strong.”
He’d like to stay in Denver, but he knows it’s a business and he can end up anywhere. He hadn’t let it bother him so far.
“It can be hard,” he admits. “But I look at it as a good experience. When I’m done playing basketball, I get to say I lived in a lot of great cities and met a lot of great people. It’s part of my journey and part of the great memoires and can share with my kids. It’s been a good time.”
Indeed it has, taking him all over the country.
On Thursday, it brought him back home.