ORLANDO, Fla. — DeAndre Liggins caught a swing pass at the top of the 3-point arc with his feet set and his eyes locked squarely on the basket.
He was all alone.
To his right, Liggins' teammates on the Thunder's bench were jumping out of their seats the moment he caught the ball.
“Knockdown!” one screamed.
It was a show of respect, a surprising one seeing as how that sort of reaction is reserved for the sharpest of shooters and Liggins' career 3-point count stands at a mere eight.
But without fear or hesitation, Liggins aimed and fired.
The squawking on the bench grew even stronger.
“I've been working on that shot since I got to OKC,” Liggins said.
On Wednesday, in the Thunder's 74-62 win over Philadelphia in day four of the Orlando Pro Summer League, Liggins' hard work began to pay off. He made two of three 3-pointers and looked as confident as ever letting them fly.
“I'm just trying to continue to shoot until my arms fall off,” Liggins said of his offseason regimen.
Liggins has attempted only four 3-pointers this week, but by all accounts he's refined his perimeter shooting to the point that it is now a weapon, especially from the corners. If so, the Thunder's biggest bundle of energy off the bench could now be even more valuable.
“DeAndre Liggins has become a really reliable corner 3-point shooter,” said Thunder coach Rex Kalamian. “I think with his feet set there we trust him as much as anybody on our team.”
Against the Sixers, Liggins didn't just show off an improved shooting stroke. With point guard Reggie Jackson getting the day off, and Dwight Buckys sitting the second half to nurse an injury, Liggins was thrust into emergency point guard duty. He finished with a team-high four assists.
He brought the ball up the court. He initiated the offense. He ran pick-and-rolls. He drove and kicked to shooters or dumped off to big men.
It was Liggins like you've never seen him.
“I think what we saw from him (Wednesday) was a little flashback to what he did in college,” Kalamian said. “He can handle the basketball. He actually played some point (guard) at Kentucky.”
Liggins proudly added a little more clarification.
“I was recruited to Kentucky as a point guard,” Liggins said. “Of course that changed when John Wall came. But I still have it in me to make plays for others. That's something I can do.”
Of course, Liggins' customary tenacity hasn't gone anywhere.
On one first-half defensive possession Liggins aggressively contested a shot, reaching over a Sixers player from his side to block a shot. An official called a foul. Liggins argued the call. The official, apparently unfamiliar with Liggins' all-out approach, told Liggins to settle down.
Not a chance.
“That's my calling card,” Liggins said of his intensity and in-your-face defense. “That's why I'm in this league and that cannot go away. Without that, I'm out the league. So I got to keep that.”
The question is whether it'll all be enough to keep Liggins, 25, in OKC a little longer.
Liggins is on a non-guaranteed contract this season. The Thunder can release or trade him before the season and not have to pay him.
His future is uncertain, and the Thunder hasn't shared any of its plans with him.
“That's the scary part about it,” Liggins said. “But at the end of the day this is a business, and it's a lot more teams out there. I would love to stay in OKC and play with the guys as I said before. I love the organization. They're first class. But this is a business and whatever happens, happens.”