OKC's Livingston Trying to Make It All the Way Back
Time wasn't a concern for Livingston five years ago and something he still possesses at age 23. But his stock has fallen considerably because of a Feb. 2007 left knee injury that would have ended many other careers. Now the hair is short and faded on the sides. The focus is on now, not tomorrow. And his left knee continues to improve, but it may never be the same.
In case you forgot, Livingston dislocated his kneecap, tore his anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament and his meniscus, and sprained his medial collateral ligament. He also dislocated his patella and tibia-femoral joint making a jump-stop against the Charlotte Bobcats.
The gruesome injury and arduous rehabilitation limited Livingston to 12 games the past two years, and he is trying to stick with the Thunder, which has yet to guarantee his contract.
He remains 6-foot-7 with superior ball-handling and distributing skills, yet Livingston seeks a job in the NBA despite lacking the explosion of three years ago.
"It's good, just taking my time to getting back," he said following OKC's 74-68 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. "It's really about just playing for my knee, my situation's different. Obviously after six years, I wouldn't be playing summer league. But after injuries and everything else, I'm getting back into the flow and getting ready for the season."
Livingston tallied eight points, four assists and three steals Tuesday as he actually started at small forward. Point guard Russell Westbrook, attending the ESPY awards in Los Angeles, was replaced by Kyle Weaver. Livingston is hoping his versatility will garner him a guaranteed contract. With Westbrook a staple at point, Livingston may have to be satisfied with a backup role.
But he's been humbled. The Clippers renounced his rights in June 2008 to clear cap space for Baron Davis and then he had a brief stint with the Miami Heat before signing with OKC and heading to the NBDL.
"I think that says a lot about him that he was willing to go to the D-League," OKC general manager Sam Presti said. "We are talking about a guy who was the fourth overall pick. That said a lot about him and his willingness to get back."
Livingston said the knee is healthy but he still needs to get back in basketball shape; that has been the purpose of summer league.
"The knee is very sound as far the mechanics of it, strength and explosiveness is the last part that's coming along," he said. "Right now I have to be more of a different player, more pace, just learning some of the younger guys trying to work with them. It's still learning my game and still molding it."
There are no signs of gray hairs on Livingston, but he's definitely been aged by his experience. At a time when draft contemporaries are enjoying large contracts and franchise tags, Livingston just wants a role on a team. The lure of glamour and shoe contracts have been replaced by meager thoughts of making a contribution.
"There were no words for (what I have experienced), an everyday grind, one day at a time," he said. "I'm years ahead of my age. I don't think like the average 23-year-old guy that's been in the league. Some of these rookies are my age or older and I got a different role than these guys. Now I'm back, it obviously was a long road but now I'm looking forward to continuing to improve."