And All Was Right in the World

For so long, Shaun Livingston has been the man who wasn’t there.  He existed, we knew that much.  He was somewhere, doing something basketbally.  Out of sight, somewhere in the very back of your mind whenever you evaluate your team’s miserable point guard rotation, as they say.

But this morning, the unexpected, illogical, and awesome occurred.  The Oklahoma City Thunder inked Livingston, whose D-League performances have been good, but hardly overwhelming, to a multiyear (probably unguaranteed) deal.  Yes.

The underlying sentiment of most Livingston stories will parade his rehabilitation, and rightfully so.  From that injury to what we can only hope is a full-time comeback, Shaun has come a long way.  At the core of this story is disappointment and redemption.  Strength, will, and resiliency.  But what Shaun represents isn’t a moral-of-the-story tagline or cheesy documentary featurette on the power of the human spirit.  Livingston, as much as any player, is hope.  Hope that a lanky, awkward 6’7” point guards can rule the league.  Hope that injured players can return to their previous form, even if that form was but a point on the slope to an undetermined end.  Hope that some players will realize that braids may not be for them, and that they look better with short hair.  Shaun Livingston, a prep star taken 4th in the NBA draft, is a remnant of an era that trumpeted potential, to the point that much of it was overestimated or assumed.  Maybe to some that mindset was the source of franchise failure, of one too many immature high schoolers or enigmatic Europeans. But take one of those ‘potential’ stars, and juxtapose them with the current Thunder.  Kevin Durant is already a star among stars, and among the best at his position in just his second season.  Russell Westbrook already seems destined for greatness, and combines high-flying sensationalism with a prowess for tackling the most beastly of beasts: defense at the point guard position.  Jeff Green is spectacular all on his own, versatile, determined, and just flat-out great at the game of basketball.  These guys have a combined five years of NBA experience, and are about as close to sure things as we get in the NBA this side of LeBron James.

The problem with players with elusive upside is that too many teams have put all their eggs in a basket that’s still being made; if Durant, Westbrook, and Green can provide a safety net, then won’t the structural integrity of both Livingston’s career and the Thunder’s prospects be the better for it?

This is essentially a no-pressure situation for Shaun.  All he has to do to earn a consistent spot in the rotation is be better than Earl Watson.  The team is young, and hardly faces a strict timeline.  Westbrook is already manning the starting point guard gig, relieving any pressure that Livingston would have to rush into a role that he just isn’t ready for.  He doesn’t have to take the lead, even if so many of his skills would typically lend themselves to just that.  All Shaun has to do is be the mysterious guy that sits in the corner, the one that no one quite knows what to make of, until he gathers himself, and puts together an outburst that none of us are likely to forget.  Or, y’know, just sit there.

Acquiring a hardly proven, injury-ridden point guard has never made so much sense.

Seth Carstens