Livingston feels revitalized, blessed

There was a time Shaun Livingston feared he might not walk again. Now, he's blossoming in Brooklyn. Nicole Sweet/USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, he was trying to stop Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant.

On Saturday night, he was scoring a season-high 24 points, carrying the Brooklyn Nets in a one-point loss to the mighty Indiana Pacers.

And on Monday night, he’s flirting with a quadruple-double in a virtuoso performance against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Seriously, what hasn’t Shaun Livingston done in the past three games?

Shaun Livingston

Shaun Livingston

#14 PG
Brooklyn Nets

2014 STATS

  • GM46
  • PPG7.9

  • RPG3.1

  • APG3.2

  • FG%.462

  • FT%.855

“I’m just trying to play the right way,” Livingston said after having 14 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and a career-high seven steals in 37 minutes in the Nets’ 108-102 win over the Sixers at Barclays Center.

“As long as we get the win, that’s what I’m about. I play to win. If I have great numbers, that’s great, obviously you feel good about it, but still, I’m playing to win.”

Just one other player has put up a stat line like that this season: Livingston's counterpart Monday night, Michael Carter-Williams, in the Sixers' season-opener Nov. 30 versus the Miami Heat (22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, 9 steals).

As Nets coach Jason Kidd put it: “[Shaun’s] fingerprints were all over this game.”

These types of performances are atypical of most once-ballyhooed, 28-year-old journeymen.

But they are quite commonplace in Brooklyn, where the Nets are getting a lot more out of Livingston than they anticipated. The 6-foot-7 point guard’s worth to the Nets is much greater than his veteran’s minimum salary of $884,293, which is tied for 393rd in the league in terms of pay, according to ESPN.com’s salary data.

“He’s enjoying the game,” said Kidd, who wanted the Nets to sign Livingston this summer. “He’s playing at a high level ... His character on and off the court, he’s as good as they come. He loves the game. I think the [knee] injury that he had, he appreciates it that much more, and the hard work to get back where he’s at right now.

“Basketball is sometimes looked upon as a game of runs, and also as up and downs, and he’s probably had those and is trying to be consistent and that’s what every player tries to be. Right now, he’s on that consistent roll that we need.”

Is he ever. Livingston figured to be the team’s backup point guard, but has played a significantly more prominent role, starting alongside Deron Williams and playing tenacious defense, his lengthy wingspan enabling him to guard anyone and everyone, while regaining his ability to throw down a thunderous two-handed dunk on occasion.

In the past five games, Livingston is averaging 14.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.6 steals while shooting 57.4 percent from the field in 29.6 minutes.

“Oh, man, he’s a guy who’s gaining confidence week by week with the increased role I think he hasn’t had in years,” Paul Pierce said. “And he believes in his ability. He’s so versatile out there. He can play the point guard or the 2-guard. He can guard 1 through 4. Whatever we ask of him, he’s given it to us. He’s sort of like a glue guy out there. Whatever we ask of him, he’s given the team.”

Livingston wasn’t supposed to be the glue guy. When he was in high school (Peoria Central, Ill.), Livingston had future franchise player written all over him. He was selected fourth in the 2004 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Clippers after being named co-MVP of the McDonald’s All American Game, forgoing the opportunity to attend Duke and learn under coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Livingston showed flashes of brilliance, but then came that horrifying knee injury Feb. 26, 2007, and all of a sudden, his once promising career was in doubt, as was the possibility he’d ever walk again.

Livingston overcame it all: the grueling rehabilitation process, short stints with Miami, Tulsa (D-League), Oklahoma City, Washington, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Washington again, Cleveland and now Brooklyn.

“It’s a blessing that I’m still playing and to be playing at this level with this caliber of players, I’m grateful so I want to take advantage of it,” Livingston said.

He has. And now it’s just about maintaining his stamina over the course of an 82-game season, something that was a challenge early this season, the extended minutes clearly taking a toll on him.

“I’m watching [Kevin Garnett], learning from him,” Livingston said. “Obviously he’s the fountain of youth in a sense ... You know all the stuff that’s gotten me here, I just have to continue it.”

Having the right attitude sure goes a long way. And it certainly doesn’t hurt when you’re playing at a high level, either.

“Honestly, I’m just trying not to jinx it or think about it,” Livingston said with a laugh.