LEXINGTON, Ky. — When DeAndre Liggins signed a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans this week, it meant that an NBA coach could conceivably play an all-Kentucky lineup. And Alvin Gentry joked (or maybe not) that he might just do that at some point.
His team now includes five former Wildcats: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Darius Miller and Liggins.
“The Pelicats, as we call them,” said Scott Kushner, who covers the team for the Advocate in New Orleans. “It almost feels like the alumni association should open a chapter somewhere inside the Smoothie King Center [the Pelicans’ home arena].”
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Cousins (25.9 ppg, 12.4 rpg) and Davis (25.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg) rank No. 5 and 6 in the NBA in scoring and No. 3 and 8 in rebounding — and they’re both top-10 in blocks. Rondo leads the team in assists per game (8.1), while Miller has emerged as an unlikely 3-point-shooting weapon.
He last played in the NBA in 2014-15 (five games) before rejoining the Pelicans (who drafted him and Davis after they won the 2012 national championship in New Orleans) this season. Now he’s averaging 21.4 minutes and 7.5 points per game and shooting 42.7 percent from deep, which is top-20 in the league.
“Everybody in the organization kept talking about him coming [like a guy who] was going to solve a lot of the shooting problems that they had,” Kushner said. “It was like, ‘You guys know this is Darius Miller? The guy who did nothing for years and then went to Europe because he couldn’t get a job in the NBA?’ And they’re like, ‘No, I promise, he can shoot.’ And sure enough …”
Now Miller and Liggins, who Kushner suspects will at minimum get another 10-day contract, are part of the Big Blue fraternity in New Orleans.
“They’re together a lot. You see them talking a lot,” Kushner said. “You go in the Pelicans’ locker room and Miller, Rondo, Davis and Cousins — they’re all four in a row in the back there. It’s a little UK clubhouse.”
Together, the Pelicats are trying to help New Orleans make the playoffs for just the second time in seven seasons. They’re currently 20-20 and in eighth place in the Western Conference, which would give them the final playoff spot.
More on the podcast
Kushner said all this and much more on the latest episode of Wildcat Country, your daily Kentucky podcast presented by SEC Country, in a wide-ranging interview with host Curtis Burch.
He talked about how the Davis/Cousins experiment is working, how Cousins deals with the local media, what it’s like to cover Rajon Rondo — “he’s intelligent, intense” — Liggins’ chances of sticking and whether the clock is ticking on Davis and Cousins’ time in New Orleans.
Lots of football news
Curtis and beat writer Kyle Tucker also talk about a busy couple of days in UK football news: wide receivers coach Lamar Jackson is gone, but the Cats’ top four defensive players are all coming back. What does it all mean for Mark Stoops and Co. in 2018?
Oh, right, there’s a basketball game on Saturday in Nashville, and it could be a mess trying to get there (or back). The team left a day early to beat the predicted snow storm expected to sweep across Kentucky (and hit Nashville) on Friday. Kyle and Curtis talk weather and Cats-Commodores.