By Jay Rofsky

For Shaun Livingston, the sky was the limit, as the eighteen year old opted out of his freshman duties with Duke University, and decided to enroll in the 2004 NBA Draft. The Los Angeles Clippers chose Livingston for the fourth overall pick, with the hope that he would one day be their franchise point guard. At the time, veteran Sam Cassell was their starter, and Livingston would play backup duties and fill in as a part-time shooting guard. In his second season, he was a key contributor to the Clippers’ most successful season, finishing at 47-35. The following season, Shaun was poised for his breakout year, but then, it happened.
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“It’s probably the most serious injury you can have to the knee,” said Dr. Tony Daly, the Clippers’ physician at the time, when asked to comment on Livingston’s graphic knee injury. Daly also noted that he may possibly miss the entire next season, which proved to be absolutely correct. It happened on February 26, of 2007, as Livingston landed awkwardly from an attempted layup on a fast break. His left knee snapped terribly in a lateral fashion, resulting in an ACL tear, PCL tear, as well as a lateral meniscus tear. On top of all the tears, he had also suffered an MCL sprain, as well as the dislocations of his patella and tibia-femoral joint. A professional at the hospital actually told Livingston that there was a slight chance of his leg needing to be amputated. There is a reason why the video of the injury should not be viewed by children. After months upon months of rehabilitation, Livingston finally managed to walk.

We all consider Livingston’s over-achieving success this season as a great comeback story, and rightfully so. However, his initial comeback was not nearly as successful. It was a long and dark path for Shaun to eventually wind up where he is today. After missing all of the 07-08 season, Livingston’s contract with the Clippers had expired. He eventually signed a two year deal with the Miami Heat, resulting in only four games played with a total of 41 minutes, because Miami instead, chose to trade Shaun to the Memphis Grizzlies in January of 2009, which in turn resulted in Shaun being waived later on that same day. Livingston then joined the Oklahoma City Thunder’s D-League team, the Tulsa 66ers, just two months later. A multi-year deal was locked up with OKC after just three weeks in Tulsa, but yet again, Livingston was waived the next season of 09-10, in December.
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Just two months later, Livingston signed his first of two 10 day contracts with the Washington Wizards, to eventually sign with them for the remainder of the season. After showing positive signs of capable backup PG duties, Livingston landed a two year contract worth 7 million dollars with the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2010 offseason. After coming off the bench for 73 games for Charlotte, Livingston was dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks the following summer. Livingston was dealt to the Houston Rockets a year later, but was then waived before the start of the 12-13 season. Washington once again signed Livingston in November of that same season, but waived him just a month after. It was then that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ claimed him off waivers, which perhaps, may have ignited his reclamation, as Shaun displayed his best seasonal performance since the injury.

Finally came the Brooklyn Nets. On July 11, 2013, Livingston signed a one year deal for roughly 1.3 million to back up Deron Williams. To date, Livingston has far exceeded his backup expectations. He is arguably the most important asset to the Brooklyn Nets. How, you ask? Well the answers do not display in the stats, but more importantly, in the wins. Since January 2nd, Shaun Livingston has not left the starting lineup, and Brooklyn is 26-10 within that period (as of Friday after the Nets latest win). They were 10-21 prior. It’s all the intangibles that come with Livingston that make him such a great fit for the Nets. Jason Kidd has certainly not overlooked this in any way, which is why the Nets have the fifth best-ranked defense in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions since January 2nd.

Even without Kevin Garnett these past couple of weeks, Brookyln’s defense has still been improving. They still have backcourt length with Mason Plumlee doing a very fine job filling in for the future hall of famer. Furthermore, with Livingston being capable of guarding up to four out of the five positions on the other team, switching on the screens has been the least of Kidd’s worries. Livingston’s presence (6’8, 6’11 wingspan), can give opposing coaches a migraine with five minutes to go in the first quarter. Livingston is a beloved savior in the city of Brooklyn, and the thought of not having him next year, is quite a depressing one.
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As this season began, Nets faithful had only worried about two future upcoming free agents, Paul Pierce and Andray Blatche. Now that Livingston is this city’s basketball savior, he is right up there in this conversation. Livingston has already surpassed his career highs in minutes, points, starts, rebounds, and steals. There is a problem with Livingston’s future, however, since the Nets do not own his Bird rights, unlike Pierce and Blatche. This means that the Nets can only offer as much as the entire mid-level exception will allow, which would be $10 million for three years. It is highly likely that Livingston will be offered more cash elsewhere. However, he does understand his role with the Nets, and he is grateful for the city of Brooklyn.

“My enjoyment with Brooklyn and how I fit definitely plays a factor. You have to weigh your situations, your opinions. The reason I’m in a situation where I can demand a contract is because I’m playing for this team, this coach, this system. I realize that and I’m not over my head. But at the same time, it’s a business. You have to look at it like the next contract could always be your last.”

This was said by Shaun Livingston to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News on Tuesday evening. Livingston’s words clearly show that he is thankful for the situation that he is in, but he is also going to keep things straight forward with the media. Perhaps, Livingston will stay in Brooklyn for another three years after all, considering the way everything is going for him here. However, the reality of Livingston’s situation is quite an unfortunate one for the Nets and their fans. Shaun added, “Especially me,” at the end of the excerpt from above. At age 28, Livingston will most likely be in the best contract signing position this off season of his entire career. As humble and grateful as he is for Brooklyn and his new home, it would only make sense for the rising guard to go where the money takes him. The playoffs will be a perfect opportunity for Shaun to showcase his talent. Sure, he may never find this perfect fit again, and he certainly knows this is a possibility, but money always tends to overtake the emotions in situations like these, especially for Shaun Livingston’s sake.

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