Miami Heat Sign DeAndre Liggins to 10-Day Contract

The Miami Heat have made the first use of their NBA D-League affiliate after purchasing operational control this season, with Tuesday’s questionable signing of swingman DeAndre Liggins of the Sioux Falls Skyforce to a 10-day contract.

Liggins had been playing with the Skyforce as an unaffiliated player, and was free to sign with any NBA team.

The 6-foot-6-inch, 209-pound Chicago native was originally recruited out of high school as a point guard by the University of Kentucky for the incoming class of 2008. He spent his first two years mostly coming off the bench, but in his junior year, coach John Calipari decided to start him as a shooting guard. After his junior season, he elected to enter the 2011 NBA Draft.

Liggins was selected with the 53rd overall pick by the Orlando Magic. He spent the year with the Magic on a one-year minimum salary contract, barely playing. He went on sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2012-13 season, during which time he had multiple assignments with the D-League’s Tulsa 66ers. 

Already facing long odds to make the Thunder’s regular season roster for a second season this summer, Liggins made the decision a simple one after being arrested on Aug. 31 on complaints of domestic assault.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, an argument between Liggins and his girlfriend, Jasmine Horton, in the bedroom at his Oklahoma City home led to Liggins grabbing Horton by the hair, pulling her out of bed, throwing her to the ground, and punching her 11 or 12 times. Most of the blows struck the back of her head.

Liggins then left the bedroom and Horton locked the bedroom door, but Liggins kicked the door open, grabbed her by the hair and threw her to the ground, where he again punched her, then stomped and kicked her on the head and back.

Both incidents were witnessed by the couple’s two-year-old son.

Liggins is then accused of throwing an Xbox and box fan, striking Horton in the head with both items. He and Marcus Rogers, a second man involved in the incident, would not let Horton leave and blocked the doorway, but she managed to escape the house twice. Both times, Rogers grabbed her and dragged her back inside the house.

After Liggins and Rogers left the house, Horton passed out on the bed for an unknown amount of time, waking to Liggins screaming in her face and again dragging her from the bed and to the floor.

Horton begged the men to take her to a hospital, but they refused. However, at this point, Rogers stepped in between Liggins and Horton and she was able to run to a neighbor’s house. Liggins reportedly stopped chasing her when a neighbor came out to help.

A doctor who examined Horton said she suffered from a shoulder separation, bruising on the back of her head and multiple scrapes on her neck and back, according to the Oklahoma City police officer who wrote the affidavit.

Liggins was charged with two counts of kidnapping, two counts of domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, three counts of domestic abuse in the presence of a minor, and one count of violating a protective order.

The Thunder released him on Sep. 6, the day charges were officially filed.

Liggins had the opportunity to take a potentially more lucrative offer overseas but, then with $1.2 million of career earnings, he decided to stick in the U.S. and enter the D-League draft. “I honestly thought that it was the best way for me to try to work my way back to the NBA.”

He was drafted by the Skyforce on Nov. 1.

Liggins has appeared in 35 games with the Skyforce this season, averaging 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.5 steals and 40.3 minutes while shooting 39.8% from the field and 33.3% from three-point range. He was recently selected for the D-League All-Star Game during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, along with former Heat 2012 second-round draft pick and currently unaffiliated center Justin Hamilton.

As part of a plea deal on the incident in Oklahoma, felony charges against Liggins were dropped last week. Prosecutors are expected to re-file the charge as a single misdemeanor count of domestic abuse.

“That’s behind him now and we’re just looking forward to the future,” coach Erik Spoelstra said, after Liggins participated in Tuesday’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena, in advance of Thursday’s home game against the New York Knicks.

“We investigated everything. We feel we’ve gotten to know him very well, particularly our Sioux Falls staff. So, based on our evaluations, we felt it was time to take a look at him on our part, and to get to know him.”

On the court, Liggins doesn’t do anything especially great. But he does a lot of things fairly well. He’s an okay shooter. An okay athlete. An okay playmaker. A good rebounder. A strong perimeter defender with good instincts and a big wingspan to contest shots, but lacking great lateral quickness.

He’s just a solid player who works hard, has incredible tenacity, and provides great energy. He’ll look to make his mark on the Heat as the perimeter stopper they’ve been craving.

The drawback is that Liggins’ defense would come at the expense of the Heat’s offense. It’s a big drawback, and one that the Heat might not be able to get away with. Because of the way teams load up on LeBron James, the Heat absolutely must have shooters spacing the court around the arc.

“(The Sioux Falls staff) liked him just in terms of his defensive disposition, his activity,” said Spoelstra after the Heat’s morning practice. “He’s a combo guard, so for them he had to play two or three positions. He’s a good rebounder, defender, can handle the ball and run your offense at times.

“The type of things he does, we like. So this gives us an opportunity to look at him for a few days.”

Not one mention in there of Liggins as a shooter.

Liggins represents a departure for the Heat in its pursuit of players who can be live in the team’s offense. He has refined his perimeter shooting to a certain degree, to the point where he can knock down an occasional open 3-pointer, especially from the corners, but it is hardly a reliable shot.

He will earn $52,017 for his ten days of service, more than twice his annualized D-League salary, and cost the Heat $143,047 when including the luxury tax. He can be signed to as many as two 10-day contracts. After a second 10-day contract, the Heat can thereafter only retain him by signing him for at least the remainder of the season.

The Heat opened the roster spot for Liggins with last week’s trade of guard Roger Mason Jr. to the Sacramento Kings, with Mason since released. The team is now again at the fifteen player maximum.

The Liggins signing doesn’t preclude the Heat from pursuing other free agent alternatives as the March 1 deadline approaches – the date by which players need to be waived by their existing teams in order to be eligible for the playoffs with their new teams – but it certainly raises questions as to why they signed him, a player hardly in demand, while knowing other NBA-caliber alternatives were about to become available.

This is a questionable signing with questionable timing of a player with questionable talent for the Miami Heat.

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