[Shaun Livingston shows no fear going against the JaVale McGee tree.]
[Livingston ended up missing the tough shot ... but man, he and McGee are some lengthy dudes.]
Along with “no cheering in the press box”, and “no soliciting autographs from the players”, one of the rules of game-attending media says that we aren’t supposed to openly root for players. We are supposed to be as objective as possible so we can freely vacillate between criticism and praise, without worrying about offending our own sensibilities.
In three years covering the NBA, I think I’ve done a stellar job of obeying all of these rules. I’ve slipped up a few times and pumped my fist, but I catch myself before anyone can see me. I’ve praised and criticized players and coaches (most recently Flip Saunders) with a clear conscience, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. And lest we forget, basketball writers tend to be basketball fans too.
That being said, I openly root for Shaun Livingston.
It’s not just that he came back from this horrific knee injury in 2007, or that he seemed to be a legitimately good kid each time I chatted with him. It had more to do with how he arrived and eventually stayed with the Wizards. He initially came on a 10-day contract in March of 2010, then he played well enough to receive another one, and then eventually he earned a starting nod and signed for the remainder of the season.
In 26 games with Washington, he averaged 9.2 points, 4.4 assists. His best outing of 2009-10 came against the Boston Celtics on April 9, 2010. That night he flirted with a triple-double, gathering 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds, the Wizards handing the Celts an embarrassing loss to boot. Livingston even drew this high praise from Coach Saunders:
“The biggest thing is he’s got a very high basketball I.Q. He seems to calm everybody down a little bit when he’s on the floor, and he’s got great size so when things break down he’s has the ability to back somebody down and get a shot off.”
It wasn’t difficult to envision a starting back court with the 6’7″ Livingston and the 6′”4 Gilbert Arenas creating all types of match-up issues on both ends of the floor (something I pointed out last night when Arenas and Livingston were guarding each other).
But when the Wizards won the lottery and drafted the great John Wall, and then traded for veteran Kirk Hinrich, it was clear that Ernie Grunfeld had no intentions of bringing Livingston back. Two weeks into free agency, Livingston signed a 2-year, $7 million deal with the Charlotte Bobcats, which meant he would fight for the starting point guard job with D.J. Augustin (Augustin won the battle).
Livingston returned to D.C. last night and his Bobcats defeated a lethargic Wizards team, 93-85. He played just 11 minutes and had a relatively quiet night — four points and an assist. Prior to the game, I caught up with Livingston to get his feelings about returning to the city where he rejuvenated his career:
As a final note, after the game I asked Livingston his opinion of Gilbert Arenas. Arenas, much like Livingston, has battled with knee issues (and more recently weight issues), so I wanted Livingston’s opinion on what he saw:
“Look, I’m slow for a guard so everyone zooms by me, but he still looks as quick with and without the ball as he did in his prime. I keep hearing that he’s out of shape and his ankle hurts, but to me, he looks like a player who isn’t comfortable in the system yet. A couple of times he looked like he didn’t know where to go, which means he’s probably trying to get his rhythm back. Once he gets comfortable with the offense and he’s in the lineup consistently, I think he’ll play a lot better. But he’s still quick, he can still shoot despite his performance tonight, and hopefully he and Wall will get a shot to play together.”
[All photos copyright of Kyle Weidie, Truth About It.net]