Thunder coach Scott Brooks recently was watching tape from a game last April when one play — Shaun Livingston soaring through the air for a dynamic dunk — caught his attention.
"I forgot this watching the game live, but looking at old film on that alley oop, he was way above the rim,” Brooks said. "You know he has it in him. This summer really helped him playing in both summer leagues.”
The No. 4 overall pick five years ago, selected out of high school by the Los Angeles Clippers, Livingston was starting to blossom into one of the NBA’s top young point guards when he suffered one of the worst knee injuries in league history.
Livingston tore his ACL, MCL, PCL and dislocated his knee cap. The injury was so severe some predicted his career was finished.
Two years later, following a D-League stop with the Tulsa 66ers and a late-season audition with the Thunder, Livingston is competing for Oklahoma City’s backup point guard vacancy.
"I’m impressed with the work he’s put in the last two years,” Brooks said. "Anyone who has seen his injury, that was pretty devastating to watch. For him to come back says a lot about his character. He has no give-up in his bones. He continues to fight to get back to where he was three years ago.
"He’s made great strides. He’s improved a lot. His strength is good. Playing in both summer leagues he could test it, challenge it and know physically he’s back. The next step is mental.”
Livingston, 24, worked diligently this summer to remove all doubt he can withstand the grind of an 82-game NBA season.
"My knee is a lot better,” Livingston said. "I’m definitely a lot stronger. My knee, my leg, everything is a lot stronger. Confidence-wise, I definitely feel a lot better.