Shaun Livingston enjoying breakout season with Nets
Shaun Livingston’s career is still most closely associated with the night of Feb. 26, 2007 when he suffered a hellish and potentially career-ending knee injury on a simple layup.
It was just two and a half seasons after he was a first-round pick out of Peoria Central High School in Peoria, Ill. and the injury was so severe Livingston was not supposed to still be in the NBA.
“Honestly, I try not to think about it,” Livingston said. “It’s really just about being in the present. You can’t live in the past.”
Remaining in the league wasn’t easy but if there was a culmination of the journey back, Friday’s 51-minute performance in a double-overtime win over the Heat might have been that moment.
Livingston scored 19 points, collected a career-high 11 rebounds and handed out five assists. Livingston also drew the charge that fouled LeBron James out of the game and guarded Norris Cole and Ray Allen successfully.
“Shaun was great, down the stretch, getting guys in position, executing with that play that we called,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s done it all for us since training camp and it showed [Friday] in the game.”
“I think we got a little steal at the beginning of the season when we got Shaun,” Andrei Kirilenko said. “He just showed his potential and he’s a great talented guy who just blossomed [Friday].”
Living in the past involved playing four games for the Heat and Thunder in 2008-09. He followed that up by playing 10 more games with the Thunder in 2009-10 before playing 26 games with the Wizards, who gave him 18 starts.
He spent time with the Bucks, Wizards (again) and the Cavaliers before finally joining up with the Nets this offseason.
Moving around has been part of the process for Livingston, who signed a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum with the Nets on the first day of free agency. At a time when the Nets lost C.J. Watson to Indiana, they were considering Brooklyn natives Sebastian Telfair and Jamaal Tinsley, but ultimately went with Livingston.
Quickly, Livingston’s role went from backup to starter when Deron Williams had his initial bouts with ankle injuries. The results were mixed but during a recent five-game winning streak, Livingston played alongside Williams and the results were better.
He averaged 11 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and two steals in 37.6 minutes while also showing to be highly capable of facilitating the team’s offense and playing solid defense.
“I’ve been in some rough places, especially after my injury [in 2007], but that’s a long time ago,” said Livingston. “And there were a lot of different thoughts, but those doubts kind of turned to faith. My family, everybody that’s been in my corner, God, it’s brought me a long way.”
Doubts would certainly exist for anyone coming back from that type of injury, which might explain why Livingston has bounced around so much since leaving the Clippers, but it’s hard for teammates not to feel happy about games like Friday and just the fact that Livingston is still in the league.
“Everybody on this team knows his journey,” Kevin Garnett said. “Everybody is very familiar with the story and it couldn’t happen to a better dude, a better individual. I’ve seen him work every day and I’m just very proud to be his teammate and I’m glad things are at some point turning for him. I’m happy for him and we’re all happy for him.”
The athletic ability that attracted the Clippers to him in the draft and Duke to him during their recruiting process isn’t likely to return but it’s apparent the knee has become stronger as time goes on and the bounce in his step leads the recovery process to games like Friday.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.