With the Nets in the middle of a dogfight against a team full of confident athletes that hadn’t lost a game in their building yet this season, Brooklyn turned to their point guard to help guide the team to a difficult road win in the second game of three game Western Conference stint away from Barclays Center. A familiar site for fans indeed, only the point guard wasn’t Deron Williams. Williams, the face of this franchise and maybe the key to Brooklyn’s championship hopes, fell to the ground in pain before hobbling to the locker room after landing on a teammates foot just five minutes into the first quarter on Friday night.
It was Shaun Livingston who the Nets needed to galvanize the troops. The same Shaun Livingston that the Clippers selected out of high school with the fourth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft under the impression that this was Magic Johnon reincarnated. The same Shaun Livingston that nearly had his leg amputated in 2007 after suffering arguably the worst sports injury you will ever see, dislocating his knee c and meniscus while also badly spraining his MCL as well.
Livingston never gave up, taking a full two years to recover, bouncing around between the NBA and the D-League for for most of 2009 and 2010 before latching on to the Washington Wizards for the end of the 2009-10 season and landing two-year, $7 million dollar deal prior to 2010-11. Livingston has bounced around the league since and became a free agent this past offseason.
The Brooklyn Nets came calling after C.J. Watson signed with Eastern Conference rival Indiana and some have implied that Jason Kidd was the one pushing for Shaun to be Deron’s new backup. Whatever the case may be, it’s been a fun story to watch unfold, and Livingston’s teammates are enjoying it so far.
“He’s been awesome,” new teammate Paul Pierce said in regards to Livingston. “I knew Shaun has always had potential. I think he’s finally back to his full strength, and when you put him around guys, the cast of guys that we have, it only makes him look better. And he’s gaining confidence by the day.”
The Nets have been a disappointment so far. Kevin Garnett has underachieved. Deron Williams is now out indefinitely with yet another ankle sprain and he was playing miserably when healthy anyway. It’s scary to think where the season would be and what the future would hold if not for the Livingston signing.
“I’m pushing, man, every day,” Livingston said. “You can never stop learning, never stop trying to get better. I’m working. I’m humbled to be here, but at the same time, it’s an opportunity and I want to be aggressive. My teammates, my coaches, they have confidence in me. So now it’s up to me.”
Livingston was about as aggressive as we’ve seen him on Friday night, finishing with 18 points, six assists, and two steals in leading the Nets to their first road victory.
He followed that up with a solid performance against Chris Paul, the resident “point god” in Los Angeles. Livingston’s combination of size, vision, and deceptive athleticism make him a tough matchup on both ends against just about any point guard, and his versatility on defense will allow coach Jason Kidd to tinker with many different lineups that should give opposing teams fits. If there’s a silver lining to be found with the latest Deron Williams injury, it’ll be the play and development of Livingston, who next to Deron could form a lethal backcourt if the situation calls for it.
The Brooklyn Nets are now 3-6 after a difficult road trip, but there’s light at the end of this tunnel, and Shaun Livingston is a huge part of it.