Before the 2006-2007 season, the Clippers were reeling from their only playoff series victory in franchise history and, at the time, felt confident in their plan for the future. Sam Cassell would tutor the young point guard, the one that drew comparisons of his court vision to the elite point guard, and the Clippers would be ready for the long haul. What Cassell started, Livingston would surely finish.
Cassell only played two and a half years for the Clippers but even still, he goes down as one of the favorite Clippers ever. Even when Cassell came over, for Marko Jaric and a first rounder*, the Clippers knew that there wasn’t much left in the tank with him. He was 36 but his charismatic leadership and cojones made up for the step that he’d lost years before. The big ball dance was a favorite of many. But Cassell’s ability to tutor Livingston and build him up to be ready for that imminent take-over, that’s what made him even more admired. He was the perfect teammate. Not only was he raising the Clippers and making them great, but he was also planning his own transparency. His legacy would be the beginning of the ascension for the Clippers, for his gutsy moments and his tutelage of Livingston, the first great Clipper point guard.
But that’s not how it happened. To this day, there is no more gruesome injury footage than to see Livingston land and rupture all of his ‘CLs, and to see his knees snap back like he was an alien creature in The Arrival. You could actually hear the new foundation of the Clippers break. Livingston was out for at least a year and a half and it was thought that his career was over. The team that hovered around .500 continued to hover around .500, but the energy and the hope was gone.
Cassell may be the one that everyone loved, still loves, but the hopes were all on Livingston and his cornrows. I looked back on his career with the Clippers and expected to see statistics more commensurate with the talent that everyone saw. Instead I see the career highs of 9.3 points and 5.1 assists in almost 30 minutes a game and wonder if his potential was a hallucination all along. I guess it doesn’t matter.
Frankly, it’s a small miracle that he’s back out on the court. On top of the remaining games in 2007, Livingston missed all of the next season before signing with the Miami Heat in a small bench role. Traded to Oklahoma City after less than half of a season, he didn’t gain much traction there either. He had a stretch of strong play the last season after being traded to the Wizards, which is probably what earned Livingston the backup guard spot in Charlotte. Raymond Felton departed for the riches of New York City and the Bobcats needed a back up.
When he returns to Staples tonight you’ll recognize him, still skinny but his hair is cropped close. He has earned 17 minutes of play and scores 5 points and hands out 2 assists a game, and he’ll never again show the potential that he had with the Clippers, but at least he’s back out there on the court. He has played every game this season.
(Some great Clipper related stuff at the Daily Dime)
Keys to the Game:
- Plan for DJ Augustin. I wouldn’t have said that as recently as a year ago, but DJ has been the guy to make things work for the Bobcats, using his speed, creativity and his passing ability. He’s the focal point of the offense now that Paul Silas is in town and the Bobcats are better for it. They’re 11-6 after starting 9-19 and are in the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
- Blake Griffin v. Kwame Brown. This doesn’t sound right, does it? But Kwame has been averaging 10.4 points and 9.9 rebounds in the last 8 games under Silas and has the physical strength to bother Blake.
- Eric Gordon: wrist/back, out
- Chris Kaman: left ankle, out
- Craig Smith: herniated disc, out
- Tyrus Thomas: knee, out
- Desagana Diop: ruptured achilles, out