Rookie Tales: Shaun Livingston

January 29, 2013
Shaun Livingston

Veteran guard Shaun Livingston signed with the Wine and Gold on Christmas Day and suited up one practice later. Not coincidentally, the Cavaliers’ January has been one of their best months in a while.

In Friday night’s comeback win over Milwaukee, the former No. 4 overall pick went 6-of-8 from the floor for 12 points. In Saturday’s victory in Toronto, Livingston came off the bench to grab a pair of boards, hand out four assists and lead both squads with three steals.

But numbers don’t fully explain what the eight-year vet has brought to the Cavaliers team. His leadership and communication have been vital to a young, growing team that’s starting to learn how to win.

Shaun Livingston is a cool, calm, level-headed dude. Maybe he picked some of that up in Southern California as an 18-year-old with the Clippers. The Cavaliers’ angular combo guard talks about his first season in Tinseltown straight out of Peoria High School in today’s Rookie Tale

First of all, your rookie Afro was outstanding …

Shaun Livingston: Oh yeah! That thing was huge; it was rounded. I took care of it. That much hair – you have to take care of it.

What was it like for a kid out of high school to play professionally in Los Angeles?

Livingston: It was a hell of an experience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. (It was) definitely culture shock; a life-changing experience. You know, kind of deer-in-the-headlights, in a sense, being from a small town and not knowing too much what to expect. But I had good people around me and a good family background. So I stayed grounded.

Did you have any family or friends with you to help with the adjustment?

Livingston: I took kind of like a brother of mine. We grew up together. He was 15 years older than me. So, we were out there together.

Did the L.A. nightlife ever affect you?

Livingston: Not really. It never really caught up to me. Everything for me was in moderation. So I definitely enjoyed myself. I definitely had a great time. I made sure that I enjoyed my years. But at the same time, I was really focused. And there were high expectations.

Being from one of the last classes that allowed high school kids to come directly into the pros, how do you think the rule change has worked out?

Livingston: Everybody’s an independent individual. Everybody’s an individual and circumstances are different. Some are the same, but there were guys that were No. 1 picks around the time that we were coming out – Dwight Howard and LeBron James in back-to-back years. And both of them, obviously, turned out to be franchise players.

I was a top 5 pick, so it was hard to necessarily turn down those opportunities to go to college. As opposed to 20s, second round, outside lottery. It makes sense. And that was my personal situation.

Was there a particular veteran or group of vets who showed you the ropes?

Livingston: Rick Brunson. He was a journeyman. He was in his 30s at the time. A real, true vet. Got there early. Left late. So he was big in tutoring me. And my second year, we got some more vets – Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley. Good guys.

And were any vets particularly tough on you?

Livingston: Those guys were tough. But it really wasn’t all that bad. And we were young, actually. We didn’t have a lot of vets. Elton Brand and Corey Maggette were vets, and they were only 25-26 years old at the time. It was a lot like (the Cavaliers) are now.

I didn’t have it too bad – maybe the occasional donuts and getting the coffee. But it wasn’t bad at all.

What are you seeing in the Cavaliers rookies?

Livingston: They’re progressing. It’s a long season, and it definitely takes its toll. You know, this many games and trying to get acclimated to the NBA season. How the NBA game is, the schedule, time management. Everything – mentally and physically.

I think they’re doing a good job. They’re grinding, they’re going through the grind. Because that’s the most difficult thing to do in the NBA is to remain consistent.

(The NBA)’s a different beast. It’s constant. It’s a longer season, there’s more games, more work. The Travel. Distractions. Media. All the day-to-day stuff that comes with it.

How has the team, in general, been progressing since you’ve arrived?

Livingston: They’re growing. And obviously, the way Kyrie’s been playing has elevated everybody. That’s what franchise players do. And I think with that, too, the team is seeing the progress. They’re seeing how the game should be played to win, what it takes to win.

It’s hard, it’s not easy. It’s a process we all have to go through. It takes trust; it takes hard work, dedication. It’s a grind.

That’s why veteran teams succeed, because they know what it takes – that level of trust, that level of commitment. And I think those are the building blocks that they’re trying to develop in the young players. (These are) things that the veteran guys already understand. And once you mesh that with talent and potential – that’s when you start to see the Oklahoma City(s) and teams like that – those younger teams that are learning to win.