You’re forgiven if you’re under the impression that Shaun Livingston is old. He’s looked the part and played the role at times.
He rocked an afro for a while many years ago. Current era afros remind me of Andre Miller and Andre Miller reminds me that, despite what people say, the rules of time do not apply to us all. Miller’s been 35 since he was 14. He’s the king of those who seem older than they are. The association of Livingston and Miller in my mind adds five years to Livingston all by itself.
And that’s before we get to what seems to add another five years to Livingston’s age.
Livingston played on a Clippers team that went to the playoffs. A Clippers team that went to the playoffs. He may as well have played baseball on a World Series winning Chicago Cubs team. You’re forgiven if you wonder if he’s come to Milwaukee to tell us about simpler times when we had to be home when our favorite shows were coming on because VCRs didn’t exist yet to allow us to tape things.
Hell, if you listen to Shaun Livingston, he sounds exactly like you’d expect a grizzled vet to sound.
“When I first came to the NBA, I had to rely on my athletic ability,” Livingston told the Milwaukee media in a meet and greet session on Tuesday. “Now I can’t rely on that as much, so I have to really think the game through.”
Have you ever heard a young player talk like that? Of course not. Most players in the NBA only rely on the athletic ability. They run their athletic ability straight into the ground until it plays that cruel joke on them and leaves them to fend for themselves as it watches from the body of a younger player. Young players never accept limitations and move on.
Shaun Livingston has not had an NBA career like most young players, but believe it or not, Livingston, at 25-years-old, is still a young player. Of course, he might be the oldest 25-year-old the NBA has ever seen, having already past a point in his NBA career that most players dread.
His athletic ability didn’t gradually slip away from him, it was viciously yanked out from underneath him as he simply tried to land after a layup. His knee gave out and his future appeared in doubt. It was obvious immediately that if Livingston was going to play in the NBA again, it wouldn’t be at the same athletic level he had currently been competing at.
At that point, players are faced with the reality that they might not be able to do this forever. If Livingston was going to return, he’d either accept limited roles which would only be available after sitting out nearly two seasons or look at a future without the NBA. We see so many players in the league gradually fade from the limelight, struggling to adjust, fighting their fate rather than adapting and succeeding. But when someone is left without a choice, it’s amazing how quickly a person can grow up.
Given his style, Livingston was probably more prepared than the average player to suddenly transform into a vet relying on craft rather than physical tools. He glides about the court cool and collected. His game isn’t about aggressiveness, it’s about picking the right spots. He has the size to see over other point guards, the ability to take them inside and the smarts to make the correct decision when he does.
“When you got guys that can feed off each other, that’s the best way,” Livingston said. “Guys love being able to feed off each other. You don’t even have to talk as much, you just play. There’s no feeling like that in the world, being able to play with guys who have high IQs. That’s the point guard in me talking.”
But it’s not just about being a point guard for Livingston any more.
“Early on in my stages, I’m a point guard, I’m a point guard,” he said. “I’d tell people that. But now it’s moreso just being a basketball player.”
Livingston is done worrying about labels and expectations. All that went out the window as he worked on simply coming back. Now, one year into his comeback, he can get back to work on trying to carve out a meaningful career in the league for himself. There’s still reason to hope that he can turn out to be a pretty important basketball player in the NBA. There’s still potential in Livingston.
In that way things are simple, hope, expectations and potential are apart of every young player’s career. So after everything he’s been through, the career he’s had, Livingston now gets to be like any other 25-year-old NBA player.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.