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NBA Saturday: Clippers Staying Afloat Without Blake Griffin

With Blake Griffin sidelined, the Clippers’ role players are picking up the slack and keeping the team on track.

Jesse Blancarte

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The Los Angeles Clippers have failed to meet expectations so far this season. Despite putting together an impressive offseason where the team added notable players like Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson and re-signed DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers have struggled with chemistry, rotations, health, consistency and a lack of production from its second-unit among other things.

The bright spot for the Clippers so far this season has been the play of Blake Griffin. Unfortunately, Griffin partially tore his left quadricep tendon in the Clippers’ Christmas day game against the Los Angeles Lakers, which will likely sideline him through the first few weeks of January. On the season, Griffin is averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and five assists per game.

The Clippers were 16-13 entering their game against the Lakers, and were coming off a three-game losing streak. Doc Rivers was struggling to find effective rotations and any sort of consistency from his bench. The loss of Griffin seemed to be a sign that the team’s struggles would continue into the new year, but surprisingly the team has found consistent production from its role players and are now riding a season-high five-game winning streak. In fact, with their win over the New Orleans Pelicans, the Clippers capped off the franchise’s first ever 5-0 road trip.

So how have the Clippers managed to put together their best stretch of the season without arguably their best player?

There is no single explanation, but one major aspect of the Clippers’ recent success has been the stellar play of J.J. Redick, who was on fire during the month of December. As Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com recently pointed out, Redick has hit three or more three-pointers in 10 of his last 11 games and the Clippers are now 8-0 this season when he scores 20 points or more. Additionally, over his last five games, Redick is averaging 19.6 points per game on 55 percent shooting from the field and 56.3 percent from beyond the arc (18-of-32). For the season, Redick is second in three-point percentage (48.3 percent) among all players that shoot 1.5 or more three-pointers per game.

Redick dealt with a few injuries earlier in the season, but he seems to be past that now and has found his rhythm.

“I got off to a really slow start last year and then that first month this year, I felt like I was playing well and then I had kind of a three-week stretch where I was out a week, played a week, out a week,” Redick told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “It was like stop and go, and it sometimes frustrates you as a scorer and a shooter when you get out of rhythm.

“I feel like I’ve played pretty well this whole month. The rhythm is there, for sure.”

Redick has been somewhat of a barometer for the Clippers’ success over the last few seasons. When he is on his game and is scoring effectively within the flow of the team’s offense, the Clippers have been an elite offensive team. When Redick is out with an injury or is in a slump, the Clippers tend to get stagnant. Though Redick can’t make up for the loss of Griffin on his own, his increased production on offense has helped the Clippers get by without their star power forward.

In addition, Paul Pierce has come to life for the Clippers recently. The 38-year-old forward was acquired during the offseason to add a veteran player that could knock down big shots and be a steadying presence for the team. Unfortunately, up until very recently, Pierce had been an utter disappointment for the Clippers.

Entering their game against the Utah Jazz, Pierce was shooting 30.6 percent from the field and 24.7 percent from distance. Yet, as we have seen him do in recent seasons, Pierce turned up his play after Christmas, contributing 20 points, five rebounds and two assists while shooting five-of-seven from beyond the arc in 27 minutes of action in Utah. Pierce has been starting at power forward in recent games for the Clippers, and has been getting better looks within the flow and structure of the starting unit’s offensive sets. Pierce may regress a little when Griffin comes back and he is sent back to the bench, but for now, the Clippers are happy to just know that Pierce can still produce when called upon, which wasn’t a certainty for the first few months of the season.

Another important factor is that Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson have been taken out of the rotation for the most part. In their place, Doc Rivers has inserted Pablo Prigioni and Cole Aldrich. While Stephenson and Smith are the more talented players, both have struggled to find their respective roles with the team and have been unable to produce consistently. Prigioni and Aldrich have surprisingly added more structure to the second-unit’s offense. They have shown great chemistry in the pick-and-roll, which they are using to manufacture easy shots for teammates. Prigioni has been delivering nice passes to Aldrich, who has done a nice job of either attacking the rim or finding shooters behind the three-point line. The best example of this new dynamic came against the Washington Wizards, where Aldrich contributed 13 points, six rebounds, three assists, four steals and one block in just under 20 minutes of action.

Simply put, the Clippers are getting nice contributions from their regular rotation players. On nights where Paul and Jordan aren’t at their best, someone like Redick, Pierce or Austin Rivers is stepping up and picking up the slack. Add in the newly found structure with Prigioni and Aldrich in the second-unit, and the Clippers are not only surviving without Griffin, but are in fact thriving. After winning their last five games, the Clippers are now 21-13 and are solidifying their position as the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoff race.

Though the Clippers’ recent play has been encouraging, there are still some lingering issues. Luc Mbah a Moute is currently the starting small forward and while he has added some nice defense for the Clippers, his shaky three-point shooting and limited offensive game makes him a stopgap measure more than a long-term solution on the wing. With teams like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs playing historically well, the Clippers need to find a player that can produce more consistently on offense and spread the court at the small forward position.

Also, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith have, for the most part, fallen out of the Clippers’ rotation. Stephenson and Smith are talented players and finding a way to get meaningful production from both of them could be essential towards challenging the elite teams in the postseason.

Lastly, while the Clippers have played well without Griffin, they will ultimately need him back at 100 percent if they are to compete for anything meaningful this season. Griffin is set to be back within the next few weeks, though the Clippers should be cautious and rest him until he has completely recovered from his injury to avoid any long-term issues.

The Clippers still have some issues to work through, but they should feel good about their recent play. However, they still have a lot of things to figure out before they can hope to compete with teams like the Warriors and Spurs in the postseason.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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PODCAST: The Futures Of LeBron, PG13, Kawhi and More

Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler and NBA writer David Yapkowitz talk about the future of LeBron James in Cleveland, the Paul George situation, Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs, the future of the Blazers and the Basketball 101 program that’s part of the Professional Basketball Combine.

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NBA Announces 2018 NBA Draft Early Entry Candidates

The NBA announced the 2018 NBA Draft Early Entry list, including 181 players from colleges and post-graduate institutions and 55 international players.

Basketball Insiders

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NEW YORK, April 24, 2018 – The National Basketball Association announced today that 236 players — 181 players from colleges and post-graduate institutions and 55 international players — have filed as early entry candidates for the 2018 NBA Draft presented by State Farm.

Players wishing to enter the 2018 NBA Draft were required to submit a letter to the NBA to be received no later than Sunday, April 22. Players who have applied for early entry have the right to withdraw their names from consideration for the Draft by notifying the NBA of their decision in writing no later than 5 p.m. ET on Monday, June 11. Under NCAA rules, in order to retain college basketball eligibility, underclassmen who have entered the 2018 Draft must withdraw by Wednesday, May 30.

Following is the list of players from colleges and post-graduate institutions who have applied for early entry into the 2018 NBA Draft, which will be held Thursday, June 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

EARLY ENTRY CANDIDATES FOR 2018 NBA DRAFT

Player  School  Height  Status
Aaron Holiday  UCLA  6-1  Junior
Aaron Menzies  Seattle  7-3  Junior
Abdul Lewis  NJIT  6-10  Junior
Adjin Penava  Marshall  6-9  Junior
Admiral Schofield  Tennessee  6-5  Junior
Admon Gilder  Texas A&M  6-4  Junior
Ahmaad Rorie  Montana  6-1  Junior
Allonzo Trier  Arizona  6-5  Junior
Andrien White  Charlotte  6-3  Junior
Anfernee Simons  IMG Academy  6-4  Post-Graduate
Austin Wiley  Auburn  6-11  Freshman
Barry Brown Jr.  Kansas State  6-3  Junior
Billy Preston  Kansas  6-10  Freshman
Brandon McCoy  UNLV  7-1  Freshman
Brandon Sampson  LSU  6-5  Junior
Brian Bowen II  South Carolina  6-7  Freshman
Bruce Brown Jr.  Miami  6-5  Sophomore
Bruno Fernando  Maryland  6-10  Freshman
Bryant Crawford  Wake Forest  6-3  Junior
Bryce Brown  Auburn  6-3  Junior
C.J. Burks  Marshall  6-4  Junior
Caleb Martin  Nevada  6-7  Junior
Carsen Edwards  Purdue  6-1  Sophomore
Charles Matthews  Michigan  6-6  Sophomore
Chimezie Metu  USC  6-11  Junior
Chris Clemons  Campbell  5-9  Junior
Chris Silva  South Carolina  6-9  Junior
Christian Keeling  Charleston Southern  6-4  Sophomore
Christian Mekowulu  Tennessee State  6-9  Junior
Christian Vital  Connecticut  6-2  Sophomore
Cody Martin  Nevada  6-7  Junior
Cody Riley  UCLA  6-10  Freshman
Collin Sexton  Alabama  6-3  Freshman
Corey Sanders  Rutgers  6-2  Junior
Deandre Ayton  Arizona  7-1  Freshman
DeAngelo Isby  Utah State  6-5  Junior
Demajeo Wiggins  Bowling Green  6-10  Junior
Deng Adel  Louisville  6-7  Junior
Deshon Taylor  Fresno State  6-2  Junior
Devonte Klines  Montana State  6-0  Junior
Dewan Huell  Miami  6-11  Sophomore
Dextor Foster  ASA College (FL)  6-5  Junior
De’Anthony Melton  USC  6-4  Freshman
Dikembe Dixson  UIC  6-7  Sophomore
DJ Hogg  Texas A&M  6-9  Junior
Dominic Magee  Southern Mississippi  6-4  Junior
Donte DiVincenzo  Villanova  6-5  Sophomore
Doral Moore  Wake Forest  7-1  Junior
Drew Eubanks  Oregon State  6-10  Junior
Elijah Bryant  BYU  6-5  Junior
Eric Davis Jr.  Texas  6-3  Junior
Esa Ahmad  West Virginia  6-8  Junior
Ethan Happ  Wisconsin  6-10  Junior
Eugene German  Northern Illinois  6-0  Sophomore
Fletcher Magee  Wofford  6-4  Junior
Fred Sims Jr.  Chicago State  6-4  Junior
Gary Trent Jr.  Duke  6-6  Freshman
Haanif Cheatham  FGCU  6-5  Junior
Hamidou Diallo  Kentucky  6-5  Freshman
Isaac Copeland Jr.  Nebraska  6-9  Junior
Isaiah Moss  Iowa  6-5  Sophomore
Isaiah Reese  Canisius  6-5  Sophomore
Ismaila Kane  Atlanta Metropolitan  6-9  Freshman
Jacob Evans  Cincinnati  6-6  Junior
Jalen Brunson  Villanova  6-3  Junior
Jalen Hudson  Florida  6-6  Junior
Jalen McDaniels  San Diego State  6-10  Freshman
Jalon Pipkins  Cal State-Northridge  6-4  Freshman
James Palmer Jr.  Nebraska  6-6  Junior
Jared Harper  Auburn  5-10  Sophomore
Jaren Jackson Jr.  Michigan State  6-11  Freshman
Jarred Vanderbilt  Kentucky  6-9  Freshman
Jarrey Foster  SMU  6-6  Junior
Jaylen Hands  UCLA  6-3  Freshman
Jaylin Walker  Kent State  6-1  Junior
Jerome Robinson  Boston College  6-6  Junior
Jessie Govan  Georgetown  6-10  Junior
Jon Davis  Charlotte  6-3  Junior
Jon Elmore  Marshall  6-3  Junior
Jontay Porter  Missouri  6-11  Freshman
Jordan Brangers  South Plains College (TX)  6-2 S  ophomore
Jordan Caroline  Nevada  6-7  Junior
Jordan Davis  Northern Colorado  6-2  Junior
Jordan Murdock  Friends University  6-4  Junior
Josh Okogie  Georgia Tech  6-4  Sophomore
Justin Jackson  Maryland  6-7  Sophomore
Justin James  Wyoming  6-7  Junior
Justin Wright-Foreman  Hofstra  6-1  Junior
Juwan Morgan  Indiana  6-8  Junior
Kaiser Gates  Xavier  6-8  Junior
Kalob Ledoux  McNeese State  6-3  Sophomore
Kameron Chatman  Detroit  6-9  Junior
Keanu Peters  Salt Lake CC (UT)  6-2  Sophomore
Keita Bates-Diop  Ohio State  6-7  Junior
Kerwin Roach II  Texas  6-4  Junior
Kevin Huerter  Maryland  6-7  Sophomore
Kevin Knox  Kentucky  6-9  Freshman
Khyri Thomas  Creighton  6-3  Junior
Kostas Antetokounmpo  Dayton  6-10  Freshman
Kris Wilkes  UCLA  6-8  Freshman
Ky Bowman  Boston College  6-1  Sophomore
Lagerald Vick  Kansas  6-5  Junior
Lamar Peters  Mississippi State  6-0  Sophomore
Lamonte Bearden  Western Kentucky  6-3  Junior
Landry Shamet  Wichita State  6-4  Sophomore
Leron Black  Illinois  6-7  Junior
Lindell Wigginton  Iowa State  6-2  Freshman
Lonnie Walker  Miami  6-4  Freshman
Luke Maye  North Carolina  6-8  Junior
Makinde London  Tennessee-Chattanooga  6-10 Juni  or
Malik Hines  Massachusetts  6-10  Junior
Malik Martin  South Florida  6-11  Junior
Malik Newman  Kansas  6-3  Sophomore
Marcquise Reed  Clemson  6-3  Junior
Marcus Derrickson  Georgetown  6-7  Junior
Markis McDuffie  Wichita State  6-8  Junior
Marquez Letcher-Ellis  Rice  6-7  Sophomore
Marvin Bagley III  Duke  6-11  Freshman
Matt Morgan  Cornell  6-3  Junior
Max Montana  San Diego State  6-9  Junior
Melvin Frazier Jr.  Tulane  6-6  Junior
Micah Seaborn  Monmouth  6-5  Junior
Michael Gilmore  FGCU  6-10  Junior
Michael Porter Jr.  Missouri  6-10  Freshman
Mikal Bridges  Villanova  6-6  Junior
Mike Amius  Western Carolina  6-7  Junior
Mike Daum  South Dakota State  6-9  Junior
Miles Bridges  Michigan State  6-7  Sophomore
Mitchell Robinson  Western Kentucky  7-0  Freshman
Mohamed Bamba  Texas  6-11  Freshman
Moritz Wagner  Michigan  6-11  Junior
Mustapha Heron  Auburn  6-5  Sophomore
Nick Ward  Michigan State  6-8  Sophomore
Noah Dickerson  Washington  6-8  Junior
Nojel Eastern  Purdue  6-6  Freshman
Omari Spellman  Villanova  6-9  Freshman
PJ Washington  Kentucky  6-7  Freshman
Quinndary Weatherspoon  Mississippi State  6-4  Junior
Quinton Rose  Temple  6-8  Sophomore
Rawle Alkins  Arizona  6-5  Sophomore
Ray Ona Embo  Tulane  6-5  Sophomore
Ray Spalding  Louisville  6-9  Junior
Reid Travis  Stanford  6-8  Junior
Robert Franks Jr.  Washington State  6-7  Junior
Robert Williams III  Texas A&M  6-10  Sophomore
Ronshad Shabazz  Appalachian State  6-5  Junior
Sagaba Konate  West Virginia  6-8  Sophomore
Sedrick Barefield  Utah  6-2  Junior
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander  Kentucky  6-6  Freshman
Shake Milton  SMU  6-6  Junior
Shamorie Ponds  St. John痴  6-1  Sophomore
Shawntrez Davis  Bethune-Cookman  6-9  Junior
Shelton Mitchell  Clemson  6-3  Junior
Takal Molson  Canisius  6-5  Freshman
Tashawn Berry  Dakota College (ND)  6-3  Sophomore
Tavarius Shine  Oklahoma State  6-6  Junior
Terence Davis  Mississippi  6-4  Junior
Terry Larrier  Connecticut  6-8  Junior
Tony Carr  Penn State  6-5  Sophomore
Torin Dorn  North Carolina State  6-5  Junior
Trae Young  Oklahoma  6-2  Freshman
Tramaine Isabell Jr.  Drexel  6-1  Junior
Travis Munnings  Louisiana-Monroe  6-6  Junior
Tremaine Fraiser  Westchester CC (NY)  6-3  Sophomore
Tremont Waters  LSU  5-11  Freshman
Trevon Duval  Duke  6-3  Freshman
Troy Brown Jr.  Oregon  6-7  Freshman
Tyler Cook  Iowa  6-9  Sophomore
Tyler Davis  Texas A&M  6-10  Junior
Tyler Hall  Montana State  6-4  Junior
Tyus Battle  Syracuse  6-6  Sophomore
Udoka Azubuike  Kansas  7-0  Sophomore
Victor Lewis II  West Texas A&M  6-3  Junior
Wendell Carter Jr.  Duke  6-10  Freshman
Wenyen Gabriel  Kentucky  6-9  Sophomore
Yankuba Sima  Oklahoma State  6-11  Junior
Yoeli Childs  BYU  6-8  Sophomore
Zach Hankins  Ferris State  6-10  Junior
Zach Johnson  FGCU  6-2  Junior
Zane Martin  Towson  6-4  Sophomore
Zhaire Smith  Texas Tech  6-5  Freshman

The following is the list of international players who have applied for early entry into the 2018 NBA Draft:

Player  Team/Country of Team  Height  Status
Adam Mokoka  Gravelines (France)  6-4  1998 DOB
Aleksander Dziewa  Slask Wroclaw (Poland)  6-9  1997 DOB
Amine Noua  ASVEL (France)  6-8  1997 DOB
Antonios Koniaris  PAOK (Greece)  6-4  1997 DOB
Arnoldas Kulboka  Capo d丹rlando (Italy)  6-10  1998 DOB
Berkan Durmaz  Tofas (Turkey)  6-9  1997 DOB
Berke Atar  Bandirma Kirmizi (Turkey)  6-11  1999 DOB
Blaz Mesicek  Brindisi (Italy)  6-6  1997 DOB
Darel Poirier  Charleville (France)  6-9  1997 DOB
Dzanan Musa  Cedevita (Croatia)  6-8  1999 DOB
Elie Okobo  Pau Orthez (France)  6-2  1997 DOB
Emanuel Cate  Prat (Spain)  6-9  1997 DOB
Erxhan Osmani  Bandirma Kirmizi (Turkey)  6-9  1998 DOB
Etienne Ca  Chalon (France)  6-11  1997 DOB
Filip Zagrajski  Beli Manastir (Croatia)  6-4  1997 DOB
Gabriel Galvanini  Bauru (Brazil)  6-8  1998 DOB
Georgios Kalaitzakis  Panathinaikos (Greece)  6-6  1999 DOB
Goga Bitadze  Mega Bemax (Serbia)  6-11  1999 DOB
Ibrahima Faye  Poitiers (France)  6-10  1997 DOB
Isaac Bonga  Fraport Skyliners (Germany)  6-9  1999 DOB
Issuf Sanon  Olimpija (Slovenia)  6-3  1999 DOB
Jean-Marc Pansa  Nanterre (France)  6-10  1997 DOB
Karim Jallow  Bayern Munich (Germany)  6-7  1997 DOB
Laurynas Beliauskas  Neptunas (Lithuania)  6-4  1997 DOB
Laurynas Birutis  Siauliai (Lithuania)  7-0  1997 DOB
Leon Kratzer  Wuerzburg (Germany)  6-11  1997 DOB
Leonardo Tote  Verona (Italy)  6-10  1997 DOB
LiAngelo Ball  UCLA/Vytautas (Lithuania)  6-5  1998 DOB
Louis Olinde  Brose Baskets (Germany)  6-9  1998 DOB
Luka Doncic  Real Madrid (Spain)  6-7  1999 DOB
Marcel Ponitka  Asseco (Poland)  6-5  1997 DOB
Martynas Echodas  Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania)  6-9  1997 DOB
Martynas Varnas  Pieno Zvaigzdes (Lithuania)  6-5  1997 DOB
Matas Jogela  Zalgiris II (Lithuania)  6-6  1998 DOB
Matur Maker  CIBA (Canada)  6-11  1998 DOB
Melvyn Govindy  Cholet (France)  7-0  1997 DOB
Michael Uchendu  Bauru (Brazil)  6-9  1998 DOB
Michal Kolenda  Trefl Sopot (Poland)  6-7  1997 DOB
Muhaymin Mustafa  Anadolu Efes (Turkey)  6-5  1999 DOB
Rihards Berzins  Liepaja (Latvia)  6-11  1997 DOB
Rodions Kurucs  Barcelona (Spain)  6-9  1998 DOB
Romaric Belemene  Oviedo (Spain)  6-9  1997 DOB
Shekinah Munanga  Monaco (France)  6-7  1997 DOB
Sigfredo Casero-Ortiz  GET Vosges (France)  6-1  1997 DOB
Stephane Gombauld  Lille Metropole (France)  6-9  1997 DOB
Tadas Sedekerskis  Nevezis (Lithuania)  6-8  1998 DOB
Tryggvi Hlinason  Valencia (Spain)  7-1  1997 DOB
Vanja Marinkovic  Partizan (Serbia)  6-6  1997 DOB
Vasileios Charalampopoulos P  AOK (Greece)  6-9  1997 DOB
Viny Okouo  Unicaja (Spain)  7-1  1997 DOB
William McDowell-White B  aunach (Germany) 6  -5  1998 DOB
Williams Narace  Nancy (France)  6-8  1997 DOB
Xabier Lopez-Arostegui  Joventut Badalona (Spain)  6-6  1997 DOB
Yago Dos Santos  Paulistano (Brazil)  5-10  1999 DOB
Yoan Granvorka  Monthey (Switzerland)  6-7  1997 DOB

Check out the latest Basketball Insiders Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects.

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NBA Daily: Deep Bench Stays Ready for the Pelicans

Though out of the rotation, DeAndre Liggins and Jordan Crawford are staying ready to step up and contribute for New Orleans, writes David Yapkowitz.

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As DeAndre Liggins is standing by his locker talking about what his next move might be in terms of free agency, he gets a ringing endorsement from the New Orleans Pelicans’ franchise guy, Anthony Davis.

“He ain’t going nowhere,” Davis shouts from across the locker room. “He ain’t going nowhere.”

Liggins pauses for a moment, lets out a laugh and then turns back.

“I don’t know, I’ll have to talk to Dell [Demps],” Liggins told Basketball Insiders with a grin.

With the NBA playoffs in full swing, there are always those guys on the fringe — players who may not always know when they’ll have a chance to get into a game. It can be tough sitting on the bench and watching the rest of the team partake in the postseason.

For players like Liggins, however, they’re just as much a part of the team as the guys in the rotation. They do bring value to the team. And they patiently await their turn, however long that may take. Even if he doesn’t get to play in an actual playoff game, Liggins believes he understands the atmosphere.

“It started off in Orlando, a playoff team. OKC was a playoff team. I’ve been in the playoffs twice,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I haven’t experienced playing minutes, but I know what the feeling is like, I know what the vibe is like. It’ll be great going into the playoffs, we’ll be ready.”

Liggins has never spent more than one season with any team. He’s spent the past seven years shuffling between the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami HEAT, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and now New Orleans.

He had a bit of a breakthrough with Cleveland where he emerged as one of the better perimeter defenders on the team. He started 19 games for the Cavaliers last season and shot 37.8 percent from the three-point line. It’s been that 3 and D calling card that’s allowed him to latch on from team to team despite never really playing major minutes.

“Just bringing that defensive energy. I do all the little things like take charges, all the intangibles,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I was the same way at Kentucky. You got to stick to what you know, what you do, and play a role. Especially when you’re in the league and being on this type of team.”

Liggins has a non-guaranteed contract for next season. It’s too early to know what the Pelicans front office will decide to do. He isn’t focused on that right now though. Right now, the focus is helping New Orleans make a deep playoff run even if he isn’t on the court that much.

He joined the Pelicans around mid-season after being cut by the Bucks. Although he hasn’t been on the team for very long, he’s already noticed the competitiveness and togetherness of this group. They rallied around each other following the season ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins.

“We just clicked and gelled when [Cousins] went down,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I think we lost three or four in a row then after that we just started changing the way we play.”

Aside from Liggins, the Pelicans also feature Jordan Crawford who is in a similar situation right now. Their career beginnings may be a bit different, Crawford was a regular rotation player for playoff teams in the past, but as playoff rotations have tightened up, Crawford has also found himself on the outside looking in.

He was on the Pelicans roster to begin the season but was cut in favor of Jameer Nelson when an injury to Rajon Rondo precipitated the need for point guard help. He had been a key player in the rotation but upon his return near the end of the season, he found himself mostly glued to the bench.

Crawford initially was a bench scorer for the Pelicans, capable of getting hot quickly and putting up a flurry of points on the board. He was nicknamed ‘Instant Grits’ by Cousins due to his penchant for scoring. He’s a little bit unsure though of what he’s going to be asked to do this time around.

“I have no clue. I’m going to try to find out,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I’m going to work my way through, do what I got to do to make the coaches happy and stuff like that. But I don’t know my role yet.”

When Crawford signed with the Pelicans earlier this month, his contract was only for the duration of the regular season and playoffs. He too will be entering free agency this summer, and due to his lack of postseason playing time, he might have to rely on past performances to secure that next contract.

He also isn’t too concerned about that right now. While he is anticipating the summertime, he’s just thrilled to be back with a familiar team, even if the playing time is scarce right now.

“I’m looking forward to the summer, definitely looking forward to the offseason,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I’m happy I accomplished getting back on the team for the season. That’s good right now, I’m satisfied with that for right now.”

Although he was cut despite having initially carved out an important role on the team, Crawford always remained positive and believed things would eventually fall into place. He wasn’t sure if that place would be New Orleans, but he’s glad that it was them who came calling once again.

“I didn’t think I’d be back here. They did stay kind of connected with me, talked to me,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I did have a good time while I was here, so it wasn’t no bad attitude, hard feelings or nothing. It always could’ve worked and by not having a bad attitude it allowed it to work again. It’s been a blessing.”

They stayed in contact with him and made him feel like a part of the team again. And for players like Crawford and Liggins, players who may not know who their next contract is coming from or when their next minute on the court might be, sometimes that makes all the difference

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