BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Shaun Livingston doesn’t want to talk about the past anymore.
“Honestly, I try not to think about it,” Livingston said of his trek, eyes down, leaned back against his locker after his team’s stunning 104-95 double overtime victory against the Miami Heat. “It’s really just about being in the present. You can’t live in the past.”
Livingston is tired of his tale, of his path to hell and back, of redemption following one of the most gruesome knee injuries in NBA history. He was never supposed to do this. He doesn’t seek rehabilitation, he seeks triumph. He’d rather it be the elephant in the room than the one of the first questions he’s asked following any long stretch of playing time.
But after a career-high 51 minutes against the league’s reigning champion, after 19 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks, and a near-flawless defensive performance, Livingston surely silenced a few more doubters who will no longer wonder if Livingston can be the player scouts envisioned when they saw him wow at Peoria Central High School.
Livingston can do nearly everything at the point guard position. He guarded Norris Cole, Ray Allen, and LeBron James. He hit floaters in the lane and facilitated the offense. He drew an offensive foul in overtime on James, causing James to foul out in a regular season game for the first time in nearly six years. He rose high to block Norris Cole and Ray Allen at crucial junctures, then capped the game with a spin move around Cole and an uncontested two-handed flush.
His basketball IQ was never in doubt, and his length could always terrorize opponents. But his quickness, his vertical leap, those are the traits that are finally back; he showed no signs of a player who once lay writhing on a basketball floor, unsure if he’d ever walk again.
“Everybody knows his journey,” Kevin Garnett said of Livingston’s path. “Everybody on this team, other than probably (rookie) Mason (Plumlee), everybody is familiar with his story. It couldn’t have happened to a better dude, a better individual.”
He had his doubts. After tearing multiple ligaments in his knee and sitting out more than a year, everyone did. “I’ve been through some rough places,” Livingston acknowledged, “But that’s a long time ago.”
“It was different thoughts. But those doubts turn to faith. My family, everybody that’s in my corner, God, everybody, it’s brought me a long way.”
Now, it’s his team that has faith in him. Earlier this season, Brook Lopez glowed about Livingston’s ability and work ethic when it came to finding teammates with passes where they wanted them, and his hard work has paid off.
Livingston has started all five of the team’s games in 2014, averaging 11 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, two steals, and 1.2 blocks per game, shooting 45.8 percent from the field. The team has outscored opponents by 6.6 points per 100 possessions with Livingston on the floor.
Oh, and they’ve won all five games.
“I see him work every day, and I’m very proud to be his teammate,” Garnett said. “I’m glad things are turning for him. I’m happy for him. We’re all happy for him.”