Shaun Livingston leaves Warriors a winner after saving career, finding home

Shaun Livingston leaves Warriors a winner after saving career, finding home

Shaun Livingston came to the Warriors in the summer of 2014 hoping to find a place he could call home and salvage what remained of a promising career derailed by a devastating injury.

He achieved both in Oakland.

That he was richly deserving was evident from the moment he arrived until Wednesday, when the Warriors announced they were waiving the 14-year veteran point guard.

The move was anticipated. Livingston, who turns 34 in September, was briefed well in advance, according to league sources. Though he was entering the final year of a three-year deal worth $23.7 million signed in 2017, only $2 million of his $8.3 million salary in 2019-20 was guaranteed. Utilizing the stretch provision, the Warriors will spread the $2 million in equal installments over the next three seasons.

Though it is being reported that Livingston is considering extending his playing career, it’s also conceivable he will retire and remain with the Warriors in a different capacity.

He would like that, and so would the Warriors.

Livingston is “Dot” to his now-former Warriors teammates, a reference to a Jay-Z lyric. The 6-foot-7 Illinois native spent five seasons as the restrained voice of reason in a locker room that spanned the spectrum of personalities, from the vocal abstinence of Klay Thompson to the moderating and disarming humor of Stephen Curry, and from the calculated wisdom of Andre Iguodala to the sheer boisterousness of Draymond Green.

Livingston spoke up when it was time to speak up, remained quiet when that was the more prudent option and was discerning enough to read the room and detect the difference.

The serenity was a direct result of his NBA experience. Drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers fourth overall out of Peoria Central High School in 2004, Livingston entered the league with one hand reaching for the torch carried by Penny Hardaway, who inherited it from Magic Johnson, all lengthy and creative point guards able to generate offense in every conceivable way.

Then in his third season, at age 21, came the career-threatening injury that haunts him still and will provide painful reminders for the rest of his life.

Livingston drove to the basket and landed awkwardly, in the process tearing -- take a deep breath -- the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medical collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral meniscus. Furthermore, he dislocated his patella.

Livingston spent the next 16 months recovering from multiple surgeries, rehabilitating and, as rotten luck would have it, being released by the Clippers.

Thus began what he referred to as his journey. Returning to the NBA 20 months after his injury, he signed with Miami Heat. Three months later, Miami packaged Livingston and cash to the Memphis Grizzlies for a top-55 protected second-round draft pick.

Livingston made his way through five more teams over the next five years before finding himself back on the free-agent market and signing a three-year contract with the Warriors worth $16.6 million on July 11, 2014. With youngsters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson set at the guards of the future, the front office overwhelmingly approved Livingston as the third guard. He was the only significant offseason addition signed before Steve Kerr’s first season as coach.

Five trips to the NBA Finals and three championships later, the Warriors have no regrets. They had rescued someone who would make big plays in big games on the court -- such as his 20-point outburst in Game 1 of the 2016 Finals -- and also provide perspective in the locker room.

Livingston also has no regrets. When he became a free agent two years ago, he didn’t bother testing the market. Minutes into the negotiating window, he agreed to his current deal.

[RELATED: Kawhi's short contract could be good news for Warriors, NBA]

Asked via text message why didn’t play out the process at the time, Livingston’s reply imparted the lessons of his personal journey:

“You can’t put a price on happiness.”

What Warriors' Klay Thompson repeatedly told Damion Lee during rehab

What Warriors' Klay Thompson repeatedly told Damion Lee during rehab

Damion Lee tore his right ACL on Nov. 27, 2013 during his junior season at Drexel University.

The Warriors guard then tore his left ACL on Dec. 23, 2016 while playing for the Maine Red Claws -- the Boston Celtics' G League affiliate.

Klay Thompson tore his left ACL during Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.

"We've had several conversations before about rehab in regards to the ACL," Lee said this week on the "Runnin' Plays" podcast with Kerith Burke and Grant Liffmann. "He'd always joke, 'Damn, D-Lee. I don't know how you did this twice because this is a lot.'

"It's cool to see what he's been through and now wanting to come back and go all out."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

What kind of 2020-21 season does Lee expect from Klay when the three-time NBA champion finally returns to game action?

"I feel like he wants to show people that he is the best two-way guard in the league," Lee said. "He's done it before. He's in a pretty good mind space. I think he's just ready to go out there and play."

[RELATED: Klay tells fans in China his mind, body are '100 percent']

Klay wasn't around the team a lot last season. But when he was at Chase Center, he made his presence felt.

"There were a lot of times where he'd just pull younger guys aside and give guys little tidbits," Lee explained. "It's unique to see. Everyone is so used to seeing Klay being quiet or reserved. Hearing him actually speak up and talk and give some input is huge.

"That's a huge step -- not only for him but the team and a lot of the younger guys seeing him as a big brother and as an influence."

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Watch Warriors' Steph Curry adorably teach son Canon to golf on beach

Watch Warriors' Steph Curry adorably teach son Canon to golf on beach

The thing Steph Curry probably loves more than basketball is his family … and golf. Golf is probably a close second, but the man is obsessed with the game. So what happens when the Warriors’ superstar introduces his son Canon to it?

Well, cuteness … obviously.

I know, it’s the cutest thing you will see today.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Curry will be playing once again in the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament this weekend in Lake Tahoe. It’ll be his eighth appearance, to give you a sense of how much he loves it.

We could all assume Steph is looking forward to the day both he and Canon could truly enjoy the greens together. He’s obsessed with the game. So much so, he would think about it during basketball.

"I think I think about golf too much -- and that's a problem,” he said in an episode of "Stephen vs The Game." “Like, during a game, yeah. The game of golf just gets under my skin.”

Steph might not have touched a club until the age of 10, which is well after he started toying around on the court, but he excelled at it per usual. 

[RELATED: Curry wants to help save 'Warriors House' in West Oakland]

Still, he admitted he was “haunted” by the game -- a notion his wife Ayesha mentioned.

Either way, this important aspect of his life will be exciting to hand down to young Canon.