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Utah Jazz: Bucks' Shaun Livingston perseveres in new role

Published January 3, 2012 11:45 pm

NBA • Guard carves out a niche after comeback from knee injury.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Shaun Livingston remembers his freak knee injury every time he plays basketball.

Anyone who saw the footage remembers it, when Livingston, the wispy 6-foot-7 point guard, seemingly had his leg broken in half on a drive to the basket, almost five years ago against the Charlotte Bobcats.

It was the worst injury a knee could incur. Livingston dislocated the knee. He tore three ligaments, including his ACL, PCL and MCL. Most expected his career to be over. Not many expected him to ever become a viable NBA player again.

"It's incredible that he's been able to come back and be productive in the pro game again," Milwaukee Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said.

Livingston is indeed back, playing for Milwaukee, using his length and point guard acumen to his advantage. Against the Jazz in Utah's 85-73 Tuesday night win at EnergySolutions Arena, Livingston scored nine points, grabbed three rebounds and added an assist.

The numbers, though, are secondary. His story is one of the more uplifting ones around the NBA. The image of him twisting on the ground in pain on ESPN's SportsCenter is one of the more grotesque of this generation. He missed most of two years with the injury. He's come back with a steady diet of 10-day contracts and proven that he's still able to play at the pro level. And following Tuesday's game, he rested against his locker room stall, a thick bag of ice wrapped around his entire lower leg.

"I've been able to come back with hard work and good doctors," Livingston said. "The hardest part of the injury has been mentally coming back. Figuring out how to be effective."

Livingston was one of the most hyped prospects of the 2004 draft, one of the best prospects in a field that included Dwight Howard and Utah's Al Jefferson. He was a big point guard, a pure passer. But he was athletic, able to get to the rim.

He could've gone to Duke, as he signed to play with the Blue Devils. But, with his stock high, he decided to go pro.

"I don't regret any of that," Livingston said. "As a man, you have to make decisions."

The athleticism, a major part of his game previously, is almost gone. Once able to dunk over big men at will, Livingston no longer has that ability, for the most part.

But he's cerebral. He was always smart, and he's used a high basketball IQ to think his way around the court.

Against the Jazz, Livingston used a steady diet of floaters to score points. He drove to the basket, and was able to get to the free-throw line because as a result.

He plays both backcourt positions now. He knows he has to make his living as a veteran coming off the bench.

"I hope I can play this game another 10 years," Livingston said. "If I'm lucky enough to do that. I've had to change my game, but I think I can be effective playing the way I do now."







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