I had first heard of Shaun Livingston during our senior years of high school in 2004. While I was on my way to Marist College in hopes of walking on to a team that had gone 6-24 the year before (things would eventually change), Shaun was on his way to play for Duke University, a perennial powerhouse in college basketball. Unfortunately, he opted not to and decided to head straight to the NBA, being selected 4th in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers.
I say ‘unfortunately’ because he was NOT the typical Duke recruit. Sure, he was supremely talented like most other Duke players, but he was also considered ‘flashy,’ something that was never said about other Duke signees, who are usually characterized as ‘smart’ or ‘disciplined’ or ‘fundamental,’ or a combination of these things. As a college basketball fan at the time, he was exactly the kind of player you wanted to see run your team. A skinny 6’7″ point guard who could do tricks during a game was going to Duke?! A player drawing comparisons to Pistol Pete and Magic Johnson? Who wouldn’t be excited by this? But, he went to the NBA, and since then has made a name for himself in the worst possible way for an athlete: by injury.
On February 26, 2007, he famously injured his left knee by tearing nearly every ligament, to the point where he almost needed amputation. Players who were there have said it’s one of the worst injuries they’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, video of this injury is difficult to come by, but maybe it’s better that way.
Shaun would miss the rest of that season as well as the one after, too, but the time away from the court didn’t stop him. He worked hard to strengthen his knee back to playing form, and eventually found his way back onto several rosters, but it never lasted very long. Teams were still very weary of his knee, none of which were willing to keep him permanently.
That was until this past July, when the Brooklyn Nets signed him to be their backup point guard behind Deron Williams. Finally, after 8 years in the NBA, Shaun Livingston could finally make differences for a contending team that fans were expecting nearly 10 years ago.
And that was just a small part of the Nets’ plan to rebuild. The team really gained attention when it signed Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Andre Kirilenko (see picture above). Fans and critics immediately took notice, most feeling that the Nets turned themselves into actual championship contenders. Even players who were already a Net finally felt they had a real chance, too.
While adding Pierce and Garnett to the lineup made fans everywhere take notice, picking up Shaun was every bit as important. Granted, adding those two hall-of-famers to your starting lineup, along with reliable bench players and veterans like Terry and Kirilenko, only increases your chances of winning. But the Nets already had a solid core of scoring players in Brooke Lopez, (who’s proving to be one of the top centers in the league), and Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, 2 scoring guards that also have the ability to score 15-20 points per game (ppg). Should we assume that each player maintains their career averages in the 15-20 ppg range? (Pierce, Garnett, Lopez, Johnson and Williams collectively average 19.1 ppg over their careers). The point is, there are a lot of Nets who have experience putting the ball into the hoop, so it’s a good thing they picked up someone like Shaun to help the distribution, especially when you’re #1 distributor and starting point guard (Williams) often looks for his own shot first.
The Brooklyn Nets face a very similar situation to that of the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers. Each team welcomed new members and new(heavy) expectations. However, unlike the Lakers, the Nets have quality players up and down the roster, and they won’t be relying on 2 or 3 superstars to win them games. Instead, they have a whole team who can do so, so it’s important that they have the right men at the point guard position to handle the offense.
People seem fairly confident in this revamped Nets team, and they should. The team is in good hands.