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Notes from the Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins Introductory Press Conference and Why Stan Thinks They’ll Make the Roster

June 29, 2011

It’s hard to get excited about 2nd round draft picks.  It’s just reality.  For every Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis, there are 15 Stanley Robinson’s. Rarely do these picks “pan out” and even if they make rosters, it’s not likely that they stick around longer than a year or two. So it’s no surprise that Orlando Magic fans haven’t exactly been rushing out to get custom-made Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins jerseys.

Something seems different with these guys though. They both have unique talents that can provide value to the roster and after hearing Stan Van Gundy speak glowingly about both prospects, it’s hard to imagine that both guys won’t end up making this team’s roster.

Let’s take a look at some notes from today’s introductory press conference. Starring Otis Smith, Stan Van Gundy, Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins:

General Thoughts on Both Guys

  • Both players mentioned during their introductions that they spoke with Gil and know that he was also a second pick success story.
  • Both guys have been talking to Gilbert Arenas and acknowledged they use his path as motivation. Read into that what you will.
  • On the lockout and their potential tougher path, both guys seemed just to acknowledge that is was out of their hands. On top of that, neither guy even knows anything besides what they are going through right now.

Justin Harper

  • Being that he was always much bigger than the guys around him, he always played the 5 growing up.  That all changed in 8th grade when he started expanding his game and turning into the player he is now.
  • In the last 3 days that he has been in Orlando he has been going through a lot of workouts with the staff and has spent a large chunk of time working with Patrick Ewing on refining his post game.
  • If the lockout comes, Justin will likely workout either back in Richmond, here in Orlando or up in Boston with some of his trainers he worked with prior to his Senior season.
  • There was a loose rumor floating around the draft that Harper had some medical issues that were causing him to slip. Harper addressed it head on when asked and cited a minor shoulder injury that happened prior to his Senior season during a pick up game.  Obviously it didn’t hold him back and the Magic training staff found nothing wrong either.
  • Justin also got a chance to meet Dwight Howard and Gilbert and Dwight shared some of his own rookie stories with him.  I asked Justin if he was the secret photographer behind the “Plank Off” and he laughed and said he wasn’t around for that one.

DeAndre Liggins

  • DeAndre actually knows Tony Allen and has played against him before.  Liggins has often been compared to Tony due to his defensive tenacity.  DeAndre told the crowd that Tony stressed to him that his job isn’t easy and that he must work hard every day to get better.  Tony Allen is from Chicago just like Liggins. Not too shabby of a role model.
  • When asked if he could defend the PG position as well, DeAndre quickly responded with, “I can guard 1-3. That’s my job.”  He seems to be owning potential niche as a stopper.  Remember that Liggins played some point guard as well as a freshman.
  • If the lockout hits, DeAndre is planning to go back to Lexington to work out with the team.  Although, pointed out that he hadn’t talked to Coach Cal about that yet.
  • Another guy that Liggins has played against back home in Chicago is Orlando’s own, Quentin Richardson. According to Stan Van Gundy, Q had nothing but great things to say about how tough he is to play against.

Stan Van Gundy

  • Stan is not always known as the most positive guy in the room, but today he spoke glowingly about both Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins.  He continuously praised what great shape they are both in; stressing that you’d be surprised how often that isn’t the case.
  • The last three days that Harper and Liggins have been with the team has been more of getting to know the players strengths and weaknesses and less of trying to teach them the Magic system.
  • Stan stressed that both players pleasantly surprised him.  For Harper he was very pleased with his ability to put the ball on the floor and his overall ball handling.
  • The pleasant surprise for Stan in regards to Liggins was his ability to shoot.  Stan stressed that DeAndre has shot the ball much better than he originally had been led to believe and pointed out that he certainly would not be an NBA player who could just be left unguarded.
  • Another praise Stan had for both guys was that they both have great basketball bodies.  It sounds generic, but Harper is long and lean yet still strong and Liggins has incredible length.  Stan pointed out that every great defender he has ever seen (Bowen, Deng, Rondo) were/are very long guys.
  • Stan also pointed out that while Liggins is known as a great defender in the SEC, it all changes in the NBA when you are chasing Ray Allen around screens or being posted up by Joe Johnson.  Those are the types of things (being able to adapt) that set guys apart.
  • Stan also spoke very positively about how well coached both guys are.  Adding that they have a leg up and aren’t raw guys and further stating that “They are as ready as guys coming out of college can be.”

Otis Smith

  • Otis pointed out that the Magic are in better shape than most teams because they only have 2 free agents (Clark and Richardson).
  • “We like our team” – #otisspeak
  • Otis also stopped Harper at one point when Justin was talking about all the great 2nd round picks that have come into the league by making sure everyone in the room knew that Otis was the #41 overall pick.
  • Watch the full video of Otis speaking before the press conference:

The most telling information moving forward came from Stan Van Gundy when I asked him if we can expect to see these guys on the roster come November 1st.  While prefacing that everything moving forward has a lot of different variations to play through with free agency, a new CBA, the actual lockout and etc., he implied that the Orlando Magic organization fully expects both guys to make the roster.

That in itself should be exciting news to the fans that were pining for more youth and versatility from last year’s squad.  It’s not splashy and certainly not sexy, but the simple fact that both Otis and Stan speak so glowingly about these guys should mean that the fans should be excited as well.

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