February 17, 2012; Orlando FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks point guard Shaun Livingston (9) during the first half against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
WASHINGTON -- It's funny to hear Shaun Livingston, still just 26 years old, talk about Brandon Jennings and John Wall being so active, about how they can push the tempo to make things happens and about how sometimes the downside is that the game goes too fast and mistakes can happen.
In a parallel universe, you can imagine some vet saying the same things about the tall, slender point guard who came into the league as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft. Livingston was never uncommonly fast, but he had to the size and court vision to play with a similar flair at the point guard position.
You know the story: In Los Angeles he suffered a horrific knee injury (one he mistakenly referred to as "career-ending" during an interview after the Bucks 112-98 win against the Wizards), which turned him into an NBA nomad. He's on his seventh team this season. On Monday, he was relishing an uncommon 23 and a half minutes off the bench.
If it weren't for the injury, would Livingston be a star in the NBA? Hard to say. But if it weren't for his time in Washington, he might not be in the league right now.
"It was the turning point in my career, really," he told me Tuesday night.
In 2010, the Wizards signed Livingston to a 10-day contract. Then another one. And then they brought him on for the remainder of the season. He started 18 of the 26 games he played for the Wizards, averaging 9.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
"Having an opportunity to play for Flip [Suanders], let me play, let me just show the league that I could play, that I was ready," he said.
Livingston also had to prove that to himself. He said of course always believed he was good enough for the NBA, but that after the injury something was a little different.
"You do it in practice, but it's nothing like the games," he said. "Being able to go out there, when I was here in D.C., and play against top level competition, top point guards, brought confidence to your game."
What's happened since then isn't a fairy tale, but it's a story of success to be sure.
After signing a two-year, $7 million deal with the Bobcats, he was moved to Milwaukee this past draft night as a piece in Charlotte's Stephen Jackson salary dump. Another big trade -- the acquisition of Monta Ellis -- has zapped most of his minutes (his 23 minutes Monday were the most he's played in a month).
But with Ben Udrih nursing a left hand injury, Livingston played the entire fourth quarter, finishing with 10 points, four rebounds and two assists. He made five of his six field goal attempts. Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said he "stabilized" the offense.
There that is again. Livingston can help NBA teams, even if it's just to steady the ship.
You know, I almost feel bad writing about feature. Yes, it's neat that Washington was such a big part of his journey, but as you can imagine Livingston's kind of sick of talking about the injury.
"It's always gonna be -- it's a big part of my career," he said. "It is what it is at this point. I mean, I don't like talking about it -- obviously -- but I understand the nature of it."
The nature of it, of course, is that people like me are going to want to talk about it.
Livingston's NBA career hasn't been the success that seems promised to Top 5 draft picks. But it's still an NBA career, which isn't bad at all.
He said he wasn't upset the Wizards didn't bring him back after 2010. No one could have predicted they'd jump up to win the lottery and land a franchise point guard, John Wall. He said it's a business -- and besides, he got a pretty good deal from Charlotte, remember?
Five years after it looked like his career was over, It looks like Shaun Livingston is going to be OK.
"I just want to have a chance to make a contribution year in and year out," Livingston said. "And get paid for it."