The Brooklyn Nets newest backup point guard Shaun Livingston started out as a standout player back in grade school when Lutheran Grade School to LSA state titles in 1999 and 2000. He then went on to win AA titles with Peoria Central High School in 2003 and 2004. He was named the co-MVP of the 2004 McDonald’s High School All-American game and was eventually drafted fourth overall in the 2004 draft by the Los Angeles Clippers.
He had a bright career in the NBA ahead of him until a knee injury in 2007 altered that path forever.
Having passed up an opportunity to play at Duke University, Livingston was an integral part of the Clippers 2005-06 season, their best season in franchise history, when he shot 42.7-percent from the floor and averaged 8.3 points, 6.4 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per 36 minutes over 61 games.
That all came to a halt on Feb. 26, 2007 when Livingston dislocated his left kneecap after landing awkwardly following a layup. His knee was almost completely destroyed as he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, the posterior cruciate ligament, the lateral meniscus, badly sprained his medial collateral ligament, and dislocated his patella and tibia-femoral joint. It was so bad that doctors warned him that amputation was possible and it eventually took him months of rehab just to be able to walk again. It is still painful to watch to this day (although you can if you are brave enough).
While never living up to the potential that got him drafted fourth overall, the now 27-year-old has carved out a decent career as a backup for himself. He split time with the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers last season and averaged 10.3 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Livingston recently spoke with Stefan Bondy of the NY Daily News about the injury and said that the knee has never completely healed, and thinks it’s currently as good as it ever will be.
“I never really can compare where I was. The athletic ability will probably never be there, you’ve got to think I was 20, 21 at one time,” Livingston said. “I’m as close to 100 percent as I probably ever will be. The knee has gotten stronger each year, and it’s a good thing, so it’s probably close to 100 percent as it will be and it’s gotten stronger each year.”
The Nets are hoping that his knee is at least good enough to replace C.J. Watson, who was Deron Williams‘ backup last season but left to join the Indiana Pacers this offseason. He’ll have to compete with sophomore Tyshawn Taylor for the job, but Livingston’s numbers compared favorably to what Watson did in his only year with the Nets — 12.9 points, 3.8 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per 36 minutes with a 41.8-shooting percentage for Watson and 10.3 points, 5.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds per 36 minutes with a 48.0-shooting percentage for Livingston. Although his PER was slightly lower at 13.0 compared to Watson’s 13.9.
Livingston will also have a better team around him next year than Watson did last year as the Nets have added Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, and 22nd round draft pick Mason Plumlee to a team that won 49 games.