Warriors

Shaun Livingston's perseverance constant throughout Warriors' dynastic run

Shaun Livingston's perseverance constant throughout Warriors' dynastic run

Shaun Livingston wasn't supposed to make it to this point. 

The 15-year veteran -- who announced his retirement in an Instagram post on Friday -- was supposed to be done 12 years ago when he sat on the Staples Center floor, seconds after simultaneously tearing three of the four major ligaments in his right knee. He was supposed to quit after a trip to the D-League threatened to undermine a bid to return. He wasn't supposed to show up with the Brooklyn Nets in 2013 and change his career path. And he wasn't supposed to see three titles in five seasons for arguably the best team in league history. 

But Livingston's perseverance most certainly saved the Warriors dynasty - but most importantly, it might have saved his life. 

Growing up in Peoria, Ill., Livingston's career trajectory was much different than its end two decades later. At Peoria Central High school, 166 miles outside of Chicago, he led his team to two straight state titles averaging 18.5 points, six rebounds and six assists in his senior year. The plan was to attend Duke as Chris Duhon's replacement, but a string of team workouts in Chicago changed his mind and he opted to enter the 2004 NBA draft, where he was selected fourth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. 

Playing for LA's "other" team, Livingston - a 6-foot-7 guard armed with a 6-foot-11 wingspan - Livingston invoked comparisons to Magic Johnson. His future looked bright as he helped the Clippers reach the playoffs for the first time in a decade, averaging 7.5 points, 4.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds in the postseason. In Game 5 of the Western Conference first round, he dished out 14 assists, helping the Clippers to their first series win since 1976, solidifying his spot as LA's point guard of the future. 

Then it happened. 

During a home game against the Charlotte Bobcats in 2007, Livingston landed awkwardly following a layup attempt, causing his knee to contort on itself, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and lateral meniscus, while dislocating his patella. While at an Inglewood hospital, doctors contemplated amputating his leg altogether.   

“My leg was deformed. My knee joint was dislocated and out of place. It was painful. Ten seconds felt like an hour,” Livingston told ESPN's The Undefeated in 2016. “It was only like 10-15 seconds. But until they put my knee back into place, it was excruciating for sure.”

"It's probably the most serious injury you can have to the knee," Clippers physician Dr. Tony Daly added in the week following the injury. 

A year later, LA didn't tender a qualifying offer, making Livingston a free agent. A brief with the Miami Heat stint gave way to another brief stint in Miami, giving way to stints with the Wizards, Bobcats, Bucks, Thunder and Oklahoma's G-League affiliate, providing a collage of failed reclamation projects. Then, with the Brooklyn Nets, he averaged 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 76 games -- then a career-high. 

His performance in Brooklyn set the stage for his final act in Golden State. With the Warriors -- featuring two of the best shooters in NBA history -- Livingston was the perfect throwback complement to a seemingly futuristic team. While Golden State rewrote the three-point record book, Livingston finished a season with more than 12 attempts from behind the arc. Despite the contrast, Livingston was indispensable in the team's biggest moments.

In 2016, with Stephen Curry out with a knee injury, Livingston averaged 13.8 points, 5.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds over a six-game stretch to keep Golden State's back to back title hopes alive. Weeks later, in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, he scored 20 points in a win. 

But Livingston's influence with the Warriors was defined by his constant calm in an environment that was anything but. On the right side of the Warriors' locker room at Oracle Arena, Livingston and fellow veteran Andre Iguodala's lockers were side by side, with Draymond Green and Kevin Durant sandwiched on either end of them. While Green and Durant, franchise pillars navigating the rigors of a superstar relationship, the pillars of wisdom made sure the two didn't undermine the team's fabric. All the while, Livingston's knee -- like the Warriors as we knew them -- was on its last run. 

Now, both are gone, but Livingston's journey of perseverance -- one that undermined countless negative medical diagnosis -- will live on forever. 

Warriors vs. Pelicans watch guide: Lineups, injuries, player usage

kybowmanflexusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Warriors vs. Pelicans watch guide: Lineups, injuries, player usage

Sooner or later, the Warriors eventually would run into an opponent keeping doctors as busy as they are. That will be the case Sunday afternoon in New Orleans when they face Pelicans.

Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 3 p.m. PT, with tipoff from Smoothie King Center scheduled for 4:10.

Even with an injury list that runs seven deep, the wounded Warriors (2-11) might not find a better opportunity to snap a losing streak that has reached six games. Their first win of the season was a 134-123 triumph on Oct. 28 at New Orleans.

The Pelicans (3-9) have seen their roster diminished by more than half, leaving them without at least three starters, as well as three more rotation players. Of their top 10 players, only point guard Jrue Holiday and shooting guard E’twaun Moore are healthy.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors

F Eric Paschall
F Draymond Green
C Willie Cauley-Stein
G Glenn Robinson III
G Ky Bowman

Pelicans

F Kenrich Williams
F Nicolo Melli
C Jason Hayes
G E’twaun Moore
G Jrue Holiday

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: G Stephen Curry (left hand fracture), G Jacob Evans III (left adductor strain), G Damion Lee (right hand non-displaced fracture), F Kevon Looney (neuropathy), F Alen Smailagic (right ankle sprain) and G Klay Thompson (left ACL rehab) are listed as out.

Pelicans: G Frank Jackson (left neck contusion) and G JJ Redick (left great toe sprain) are listed as questionable. F/C Derrick Favors (lower back spasms) and F Brandon Ingram (right knee soreness) are listed as doubtful. G Lonzo Ball (right Adductor strain), G Josh Hart (left knee/ankle sprain), F Darius Millier (right Achilles rehab), C/F Jahlil Okafor (left ankle sprain) and F Zion Williamson (right knee surgery rehab) are listed as out.

[RELATED: Dubs' Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills]

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Warriors: The Warriors are back to nine available players. ... Russell’s absence leaves them with Bowman as the only point guard on the roster, so he might play at least 35 minutes. As was the case against Boston on Friday, Green will assume many of the ball-handling duties. ... The Warriors scored a season-high 134 points in the Oct. 24 game, with six players scoring in double figures. Three of those players (Curry, Lee and Russell) are unavailable today. ... The Warriors outrebounded the Pelicans 61-41 in the previous game.

Pelicans: If every player on the injury list is ruled out before tipoff, the Pelicans will be down to eight available players. ... Under new vice president of basketball operations David Griffin, the Pelicans over the summer separated their training/medical staff from that which also serves the NFL's Saints. The hope was that their previous misfortune with injuries would abate. ... Though rookie center Jaxson Hayes has played in all 12 games, he has yet to make a start. That could change today. He totaled 19 points (9-of-11 FG) in 24 minutes against the Warriors on Oct. 24.

Officials: Ken Mauer (crew chief), Mark Lindsay, Leon Wood.

Warriors' Willie Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills

wcsgrillstoryusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Warriors' Willie Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills

When Warriors center Willie Cauley-Stein smiles on the court, he puts the gold in Golden State. His teeth shine with customized mouthguards that look like grills. 

“I ain’t think it would look that good, but they looked real," Cauley-Stein described. "They fit real."

The grills are standard plastic mouthguards, embellished with extra bling created by a jeweler friend who makes specialized pieces for athletes. They’re molded in a tray, just like braces.

Cauley-Stein has been wearing a real grill since college. He keeps up the look at work with a collection of mouthguard grills in rose gold, white gold and crystal, with the crystal version marked with two X’s. 

The two X’s are for a friend who passed away this summer.

“His name is Rexx, two X’s, so I’m carrying that on,” Cauley-Stein explained. 

[RELATED: Slew of Warriors injuries hinders young core's development]

Cauley-Stein also has two X’s tattooed over his left eye. His skin is a canvas of tattoos that tell the story of his life. The gleam on his teeth gives him one more way to stand out. 

“A lotta people are like, ‘This dude doesn’t care about hoops, he’s got a freakin’ grill in his mouth!’ But it’s a mouthpiece!” he exclaimed.