Seven years after suffering one of the most gruesome knee injuries in the history of the NBA, Shaun Livingston is almost — almost — all the way back.
Livingston, who resurrected his career with the Brooklyn Nets last season, agreed to a three-year, $16 million deal with the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday that can’t be officially signed until after the league moratorium ends July 10. In Golden State, he’ll back up both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for new Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
After tearing just about everything in his left knee and dislocating his kneecap while playing for the Clippers in 2007, Livingston spent the next six years rehabbing, playing for six teams as his game slowly came back to life. Last season in Brooklyn, he was supposed to play a limited role for the Nets. But he wound up playing 26 minutes a night, and starting 54 games. And he started to get back some of the explosiveness he’d lost all those years ago, combining it with the cerebral part of the game he always possessed.
“Long time coming,” Livingston said Tuesday night by phone.
He was immediately drawn to Golden State. He grew up down the way from Andre Iguodala in Springfield, Ill., and played with Warriors center Andrew Bogut when both were in Milwaukee. He also knew he’d be joining a Warriors team that made the playoffs two years straight under former coach Mark Jackson.
“It feels good to be kind of a priority on a winning team,” he said. “It was the same feeling last year with Brooklyn. I was excited about the opportunity. … Out here, I can kind of be rewarded for my play last year, which is rewarding [in itself].
“It’s a great feeling. And I really wanted to be competitive. Being in the playoffs last year, being in a competitive situation, that’s what I’m all about. But this is my road, and my struggle. With all my issues, to have this now, it’s great.”
Livingston said the bizarre departure of Jason Kidd, a strong backer of his, as coach of the Nets over the weekend was not a major factor in his decision to go to Golden State. A bigger issue was the contractual limitation Brooklyn had because of its enormous team salary last season. The only way the Nets could re-sign Livingston was to use the taxpayer mid-level exception, which starts at just more than $3 million for next season.
By contrast, Golden State had the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, starting at $5.3 million next season, to use for Livingston.
“I don’t know if [Kidd’s departure] would have played a factor, because I don’t know that the contract situation would have worked out,” Livingston said. “But Jason’s situation didn’t help matters.”