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Cliff Alexander fighting to make Orlando’s roster

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This is a 2016 photo of Cliff Alexander of the Orlando Magic basketball team. This image reflects the 2016 active roster as of Monday Sept. 26, 2016, in Orlando, Fla., when this photo was taken. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

This is a 2016 photo of Cliff Alexander of the Orlando Magic basketball team. This image reflects the 2016 active roster as of Monday Sept. 26, 2016, in Orlando, Fla., when this photo was taken. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

He went undrafted. In the offseason following his rookie year, he got cut. Cliff Alexander’s fight to make it in the NBA continues this month, as he plays in the preseason for Orlando.

For the time being, rosters league-wide are overflowing with options. Soon, though, that will change, as each franchise has to trim its list of on-court personnel to 15 for the regular season. What’s more, some organizations prefer to keep their rosters at 14 in order to provide some flexibility.

All of those factors make for a stressful October for players such as Alexander, working on a non-guaranteed contract.

Over at BasketballInsiders.com, Cody Taylor broke down Alexander’s chances of sticking with Orlando — a team that looks pretty set in the post, with Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic.

Alexander, of course, never quite lived up to the hype of a top high school prospect during his one season at Kansas, when he averaged 7.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 17.6 minutes per game. Though Portland picked him up as an undrafted free agent before last season, Alexander played sparingly for the Western Conference playoff team. The 6-foot-8 power forward appeared in just 8 games and finished his rookie season with 10 points and 6 rebounds in 36 minutes, total.

Nevertheless, Basketball Insiders examined whether Alexander could be the training camp player to nab the Magic’s final available roster spot.

“The 6-8 power forward figures to be an option because of his ability to add toughness to the front court,” Taylor wrote. “New Magic head coach Frank Vogel has said in the past that toughness is something he wants to see more of from the team, and Alexander is a player who fits that mold.”

In a recent video interview with Basketball Insiders, Alexander discussed how he ended up with Orlando during the offseason.

“I mean, I didn’t make that decision. My agency made that decision for me,” Alexander said with a smile at the Magic’s media day.

As little as the 20-year-old played for the Trail Blazers last season, he stuck with the organization all year. Alexander said that experience helped him progress.

“I feel like I’m a much better player,” Alexander said of his status entering what he hopes to be his second NBA season, “got a lot more aggressive on the rebounds, working on my 15-, 18-foot jump shot and just running the floor and just being aggressive.”

According to the young big man, Orlando’s assistant GM recently sent him some video clips of Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson and his current Magic teammate Biyombo, asking Alexander to study how aggressively they go after rebounds.

With so many established big men in Orlando’s front court, the former KU forward knows it could be difficult to earn a roster spot.

“Just battle, compete my ass off and just show these guys I ain’t no punk,” Alexander said of his approach. “I’m a young guy. That’s what they figure to realize and try to pick on me a little bit. But I’m from Chicago, I ain’t havin' none of that,” he added, laughing.

In his preseason debut Monday night against Memphis, Alexander only played six minutes off the bench. He connected on his only shot attempt and contributed one rebound, but missed a pair of free throws late in the game.

None by John Denton

Considering how little Vogel played him, you have to consider Alexander a very long shot to stick with Orlando. As pointed out by Basketball Insiders, most of the fringe preseason players the Magic has on the roster right now could end up in the D-League. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — particularly given Alexander’s youth and raw skill set.

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