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News » Former star has new life

Former star has new life

Former star has new life
Shaun Livingston still can't stomach the video replay of his freak fall.

Won't even try.

"Mentally, it's best," Livingston said. "I don't think I'm going to be trying to come down the lane and dunk off one leg looking at stuff like that."

It's been more than two years since Livingston's left leg buckled, then folded like a lawn chair after a fast-break layup attempt on Feb. 26, 2007. A play that started off with a routine steal ended up tearing his ACL, MCL, PCL and dislocating his knee cap. The injury was described as debilitating, catastrophic, one of the worst knee injuries in NBA history.

Livingston missed the final 26 games of the 2006-07 season and all of 2007-08 while recovering.

Only now is Livingston, the 23-year-old point guard, anywhere close to again doing the things that once came naturally. And it's the Thunder that's given Livingston the chance to prove he still can do those things in the NBA after signing the former No. 4 overall pick in 2004 to a two-year contract on Tuesday.

"You do a lot of soul-searching in two years not being able to play," said Livingston.

There were times during Livingston's three healthy seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers that he admittedly took nights off. Relied on God-given ability.

"When you're talented like that and you kind of got the world right next to you almost, it's easy to kind of overlook it," Livingston said.

After all, the game always came easy to the wiry 6-foot-7 guard.

Livingston led his Peoria (Ill.) Central High team to back-to-back state titles in 2003 and 2004. He earned 2004 McDonald's All-American honors, sharing the game's MVP award with Denver Nuggets guard J.R. Smith. Before declaring for the NBA Draft, he was set to take his talents to Duke.

His mix of size, athleticism, passing skills, court vision and ball-handling ability drew comparisons to Magic Johnson.

"Potentially he was one helluva player," said San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "He was a wonderful young prospect."

And Livingston was just starting to find his way before his career-threatening injury. He averaged 9.3 points, 5.1 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 29.8 minutes in 54 games during the 2006-07 season as a third-year 21-year-old.

To describe his road to recovery, Livingston used the adjectives "long," "enduring" and "challenging." Doctors didn't clear him to resume Basketball activities until June 2008. He started this season with Miami but played in only four games, averaging 2.3 points and 1.0 assist in 10.3 minutes.

The Heat traded him to Memphis in January, but the Grizzlies waived him the same day. Livingston was then signed by the Tulsa 66ers, the Thunder's NBA D-League affiliate, on March 7 and averaged 9.5 points, 6.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 29.4 minutes in 11 games.

"The biggest thing is I'm showing flashes," Livingston said. "It's going to be a process. I don't think (the knee) is going to be 100 percent until possibly next season. But for me to show flashes, that's big for me, because it shows what I can do if it gets stronger and better in due time."

The Thunder is willing to be patient. Although Livingston isn't expected to play much, if at all, over the final eight games, the organization wants to evaluate him in practice and have him join the summer league team to continue to gauge him in an NBA setting.

"We're not looking at it as a project," said Thunder general manager Sam Presti. "We're looking at it as an opportunity to work with a talented player, someone that continues to have a great focus about getting back to where he wants to be. And we're excited to have him."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 4, 2009


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