Cavs' Liggins faces role model: Grizzlies' Allen
CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers' newest rotation member might be a little awe-struck this week when Cleveland faces the Memphis Grizzlies twice on consecutive days.
DeAndre Liggins modeled his game after Memphis swingman Tony Allen, who is playing some of the best basketball of his career.
Liggins entered the Cavs' rotation when J.R. Smith missed two games with a hyperextended knee. Smith is healthy now, but Liggins' defensive grit kept him part of Tyronn Lue's plans. It is similar to how Allen built his career with defensive tenacity. Coincidentally, both are Chicago natives who keep in touch.
"Obviously, I can make an open shot," Liggins said. "My thing is to stay ready, and my opportunity has presented itself. Just come in and bring that tenacity on the defensive end, take open shots and make them."
The Grizzlies (17-8) carry a six-game winning streak into the Tuesday game at Quicken Loans Arena, a stretch that includes an impressive 110-89 dismantling of the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.
Allen has played a big role in the hot streak at both ends and will have to again since the Grizzlies will be without center Marc Gasol. The reigning Western Conference player of the week is out simply to rest in what is a brutal stretch.
Memphis plays three consecutive games against the two teams that played for the championship last season. As a result, the Grizzlies will rely heavily on Allen, who has managed knee pain from earlier this season with constant treatment.
"He was really banged up. That knee wasn't firing right," Grizzlies coach David Fizdale told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "It's still at a point where I don't get to play him as much as I'd really want to play him. But he's definitely healthier and feeling better about his game and his rhythm."
The Grizzlies are missing Mike Conley (back), James Ennis (calf), Chandler Parsons (knee), Vince Carter (hip) and Brandan Wright (ankle). And yet they keep winning.
"Nobody's come to me and said, 'T.A. do this or do that,'" Allen told the Commercial Appeal. "They want me to just play within the system and play good basketball. I've been fortunate to do that and be there for my team."
The Cavs (17-5) will be back at full strength Tuesday after Channing Frye rejoined the team following his father's funeral. LeBron James had a late night Monday, however, as he flew to New York following practice to receive Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year in Brooklyn. He is the Eastern Conference's reigning Player of the Week.
As for the Liggins-Allen comparison, Lue believes itis warranted. Lue was an assistant with the Boston Celtics when Allen was starting his career there.
"T.A. is smaller, but I think he might be stronger -- T.A. is a strong guy," Lue said. "Liggs can shoot it better. T.A. actually played point guard for us for 10 games I think and did a great job. He's a very smart player. It's crazy to see that you play the 2 or 3 and then move him to the point guard and he knew all the plays, all the positions.
"They have similarities for sure. If (Liggins) can keep playing like that then I mean, T.A. won a championship. Tough, gritty player that everybody would love to have on their team."