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News » No guarantees for Ruffin

No guarantees for Ruffin

No guarantees for RuffinWhen Michael Ruffin broke into the league as a second-round pick of the Chicago Bulls, he scored a four-year contract with the first two years guaranteed.

That was 10 years ago. Ruffin has been guaranteed little since.

The former Tulsa standout is now on a non-guaranteed training camp contract with the Thunder . He's fighting three other players for Oklahoma City's 15th and final roster spot. Ruffin has only two weeks left to make his mark before the season opener on Oct. 28. He's expected to receive his first playing time this preseason against Miami tonight at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Fail to impress the coaching staff in these final two weeks and Ruffin could find himself starting the 2009-10 season unemployed. He's battling Ryan Bowen, Mike Harris and Tre Kelley for the final roster spot.

But it's a position Ruffin, a nine-year journeyman, has grown all-too familiar with.

Since leaving TU, Ruffin has made a living the hard way. Through summer leagues and private workouts, training camp battles and preseason performances.

"It'd be great to have a long-term contract and stay with the same team and have stability," Ruffin said. "But I think that all the moving around has helped build character because everything has been a fight. Nothing's been easy. So I don't take anything for granted."

Ruffin has played for six teams over his nine seasons. He's had two stints with the Bulls. There were also stops in Philadelphia, Utah, Washington, Milwaukee and Portland.

"I've been blessed to be around and play in this league for as long as I have," Ruffin said. "A lot of guys that came in with me and had those guarantees are not here anymore. And I still have opportunities to keep playing."

Ruffin's cross-country career path started when the Bulls waived him following the training camp preceding his third season. He worked out for Philadelphia before the start of the 2001-02 season and impressed enough to receive a partially-guaranteed deal. But the Sixers waived him about a month into his stay.

Out of options, Ruffin headed to Spain, where he played the 2002-03 season. But he wanted to give the NBA another shot and signed with New York's summer league team in 2003. The Knicks, however, already had a loaded frontcourt and just spent the ninth overall pick on Michael Sweetney. And so Ruffin went to training camp with Utah on a non-guaranteed deal. The Jazz offered a contract and Ruffin spent the 2003-04 season serving as a blue-collar dirty worker.

That cycle played out again the next season in Washington, where he actually landed three years of stability, and Milwaukee in 2007-08.

"I understand and appreciate the hard work he has put in to get here," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "He's done a great job for us when given an opportunity in practices and our scrimmages. To make it the way he's made it, it's tough. And I appreciate guys that really battle and fight through it and really believe in themselves."

Brooks, who carved out an 11-year playing career in similar fashion as Ruffin, said players that stick around in this fashion generally have common characteristics - quality character, veteran leadership and appealing traits as a teammate.

"Guys like that have a very important role," Brooks said. "Those guys are valuable because they make practices very competitive and they're always there supporting their teammates. Their niche is whatever it takes to help their teammates find success."

Ruffin, 32, has career averages of 1.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in 414 career games. On Tuesday he said he hasn't played up to his standards over the past week after getting off to a good start in training camp.

But Ruffin has learned to not worry about his roster spot. He remembers focusing so much on the outcome early in his career that he would try to prove he could do everything and ended up showing nothing. Now, Ruffin says he relies on his faith in God and focuses only on doing the best he can do.

"I keep my focus on that and I'm confident that everything will work out, no matter how it ends up working out," Ruffin said. "If for some reason I don't make the team and end up going back (home) to Colorado and not playing here I'll still be all right."

Heat at Thunder

→When: 7 tonight

→Where: BOK Center, Tulsa

→TV: KSBI-52 (Cox 15)

→Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1, WWLS-AM 640

Three things to know

→Former OSU guard John Lucas III is on Miami's preseason roster. In three games, he's averaging 8.0 points and 3.0 assists in 15.7 minutes.

→Through three games, Russell Westbrook leads the league in average assists during the preseason

→Tonight is the second time the Thunder has played a preseason game in Tulsa. They played an exhibition game there against Houston last season.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 16, 2009


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