Liggins Makes Bid For Final Thunder Roster Spot
By Tim Farley
DeAndre Liggins did everything he could Friday night in Tulsa to impress Thunder coaches and improve his stock while vying for the team’s final roster spot.
It wasn’t just point production, either, that impressed the Tulsa fans and Thunder coaches. While tallying seven points, Liggins also grabbed six rebounds, notched two assists and grabbed two steals as the Thunder rolled to a 107-97 win over the Phoenix Suns at the BOK Center.
Just as important, Liggins played lights out on defense, which impressed Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.
“He’s out there trying to do all the little things right. He rebounds well and hustles the whole time he’s out there. He’s energized and he has this toughness. He does the things we like as an organization. He makes his opponents work and like the other players out there he’s scrambling for the ball,” Brooks said.
Liggins is in his second year in the NBA after spending last season with the Orlando Magic where he averaged 1.9 points a game while playing 6.8 minutes per outing. During the pre-season Liggins has logged a lot more time than he did in Orlando. In the last two pre-season games, Liggins is averaging 23 ½ minutes a game, including the 22:49 that he played Friday night.
Although Liggins impressed the Thunder coaches and a sellout BOK Arena crowd, there’s still three more preseason games and a lot of practice before a decision is made on the team’s final roster position.
“That’s not my decision. I’ve just got to go out there and play hard,” the second year pro said Friday night.
Apparently, Liggins is listening to the message his head coach preaches during most post-game press conferences.
“I’ve just got to keep working hard and getting better,” Liggins said Friday night. “It’s like the coach said at halftime. ‘We know you’re going to make mistakes, but at least you’re trying.’”
Oklahoma City’s home win against Charlotte on Oct. 17 made Brooks’ decision on the final roster spot even more difficult. In that game, former Syracuse guard Andy Rautins led the team in scoring with 20 points while third-year pro and former McGuinness High School product Daniel Orton tallied 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. Neither Orton nor Rautins played Friday.
After the Charlotte game, Brooks said, “It makes the decision very difficult. All the guys we brought in have a chance, and the guys who haven’t played much have done well in practice.”
Still, Brooks isn’t looking forward to cutting anyone.
“As coaches we’re not excited about having to decide who gets that final sport. Everyone has been given a good chance. There’s a lot of good choices. It’s going to be tough. It won’t be an easy day. There’s going to be some disappointment for some guys.”
As an NBA player who was part of a championship team in Houston, Brooks said, “I was cut many times and you just do what you can do.”
From all appearances, that’s exactly what Liggins is doing.
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