Cavs' Steady Hand
When the entire team’s average age is just over 24 years old and 80 percent of the starting lineup is under 22, an eight-year vet who’s only 27 seems like a very seasoned and wise man.
Shaun Livingston inked a free agent deal with the Wine and Gold on Christmas Day, and the well-traveled combo guard has provided some of that seasoned wisdom, both on the floor and off.
The low-key Livingston knows that he’s brought “a little bit of a steady hand, in a sense of trying to help the younger players. Obviously, it’s a young team so development is key – and I’m just trying to be there day in and day out.”
After being released by the Wizards on Dec. 22, Livingston quickly found a new hoops home on Christmas. And after sitting through his first three contests amid a busy Cavs schedule – (Coach Scott requires guys to practice at least once before they play) – he’s seen action in every game since.
Livingston, who describes himself as “an old 27,” came into the league as a youngster – selected by the Clippers in 2004 straight out of Peoria Central High School. And he’s played on some young teams throughout his tenure. He sees some of the same traits in some of those teams as he does in an inexperienced Cavaliers team.
“(The Cavs) remind me a couple teams,” said the laid-back Livingston. “When I first started out with Houston, a little bit – they were a young team, learning their way (before they got James Harden). And in a sense, Oklahoma City, the year that they started to tip the scales a little bit, their first playoff year.”
Cleveland is the seventh stop for Livingston, who – after being drafted and released by the Clippers – played for the Bobcats, Bucks, Heat, Thunder and Wizards. His best season was 2006-07, when he averaged 9.3 ppg in Los Angeles.
That was the same year he suffered one of the worst injuries ever witnessed on a basketball court, taking a horrific spill against the Bobcats on Feb. 26 in which he dislocated his left kneecap, tore his ACL, PCL and lateral meniscus and badly spraining his MCL. SportsCenter warned viewers to turn away because of the graphic nature of the injury.
Livingston slowly got his career back on track. And he’s currently in the Cavaliers’ backcourt rotation – providing that “steadying” influence and teaching a young team some of the game’s nuances, namely communicating on both ends of the floor.
Livingston asserts: “(Communicating) is something that I think can fill a gap on a young team. It’s huge. You look at all the really good defensive teams and they talk. And usually those are veteran teams. But they understand the value of communication and talking.”
Byron Scott has been teaching his squad to communicate on the defensive end, but having a savvy vet do so on the floor with them is invaluable.
“They’re young guys,” quipped Livingston. “You get them in the locker room or on the bus, you can’t get guys to stop talking. But just learning to talk (on the floor), there’s a big difference. Sometimes you don’t want to talk because you’re unsure of if you’re saying the right thing. And again, that comes from experience.
“And you’d rather there be communication – even if you’re doing the wrong thing. Because then you can fix it rather than not knowing. And that’s the worst thing you can do. Then, you’re just like cockroaches, scrambling around out there.”
A career 6.6 ppg scorer, Livingston likely won’t be putting up huge numbers with Cleveland. Between Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles, they’ve got enough offense coming from the backcourt. But like Luke Walton (and Miles), an experienced vet is a valuable commodity.
“(I’m) just trying to help the guys,” adds Livingston. “I mean, I’ve been in certain positions in this league, and (I’m) just trying to use that experience to help them get experience.”
So what has the eight-year veteran seen since he’s been with the Wine and Gold?
“The potential is there,” observed the 6-7, 175-pounder. “You can see they’re trying to build a core group. And it really depends on the development of the players – that’s what you want to see. You want to see them getting better, and even if it doesn’t necessarily show in the stats, it does in the game. You’d like to see young guys picking up the game, getting better, learning the game. Taking what the coaches work on with them in practice and applying it on the court.”
Now, Livingston and Cleveland’s young core need to start translating all those aspects of their education into winning basketball games. Now they have some added veteran presence to help show them the way.