For Shaun Livingston, it was like coming home. The 6-foot-7 free-agent point guard was signed by the Wizards on Thursday, and was on the practice court on Friday to start his second stint with the team. The Wizards released Jannero Pargo to make room on the roster.
“It feels good,” Livingston said after practice on Friday. “It’s an opportunity to play. I haven’t played yet this year. I’m just anxious to get out there, very anxious. I’ve just got to get my legs back, get my wind up and I’ll be alright.”
Livingston had a few options after being released by the Houston Rockets at the beginning of the season, but felt like Washington was the best option for him. For one, he knew the Wizards could use a bigger, more natural point guard in the back court. But Livingston also felt a certain loyalty to the franchise he said helped him revive his career after a devastating knee injury that left him wondering if he’d ever play again.
In 2007, in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Livingston shattered his left knee after an awkward fall following a missed layup. The injury kept him sidelined until the June of 2008. His comeback included brief stints in Miami and Oklahoma City before finding a home in Washington in 2010.
“I was kind of at the turning point in my career with my knee,” Livingston said. “I was dealing with the struggles of trying to make the transition back on the court consistently and not play a game here, then sit a game.”
Livingston credits former Wizards coach Flip Saunders for believing in him, and helping him get his career back on track. The team signed Livingston just after the All-Star Break. He appeared in 26 games and averaged 9.2 points and 4.5 assists.
“Flip really gave me the chance, gave me the opportunity to play consistent minutes,” Livingston said. “My knee responded well, thank God, and I got a chance to get some confidence. It kind of reformed my game.”
With his old number two now being worn by John Wall, Livingston plans to wear number 14 when he takes the court in a Wizards uniform, which could be as early as Saturday when the Wizards (0-7) host the Utah Jazz (4-5). The Jazz will be on the second night of back-to-back after facing the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.
Livingston admits he’s not quite in basketball shape, but was working out in Florida when the Wizards called him. After his first day at practice, Livingston was honest about the morale of the the league’s only win-less team.
“It’s tough,” Livingston said. “I think the biggest thing is to try and get the monkey off your back. That way you can play a little bit looser and just worry about playing the game.”
When Livingston became available, Wizards coach Randy Wittman thought he would fit the team’s needs better than Pargo did.
“He gives us a guy that knows how to play, good basketball IQ,” Wittman said. “He’s got a good feel. We’re doing some of the same stuff when he was here before and we had him here. I’m familiar with him, so I thought he had a good practice for the first practice.”
In Livingston, the team has another playmaker who can facilitate, and help the rest of the players get easier baskets.
“Obviously, you can post him some,” Wittman said. “But he just knows how to run a team. He knows which guys are hot, how to get them the ball, that type of thing. And the size - I think he gives us good size at that position we haven’t had.”
A.J. Price, the current starter at point guard, also likes the addition of Livingston to the team, even though it will ultimately cut into his minutes.
“A little competition brings out the best in everybody,” said Price, who was in the same draft class with Livingston in 2004.
“Shaun is a great player. I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve been playing against him for a while now. He’s very good. He’s only going to help the team in my opinion. He’ll give us what we need.”