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' Damion Lee eager to get back in the lineup

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USA Today

Warriors' Damion Lee eager to get back in the lineup

SAN FRANCISCO - For weeks, Warriors Damion Lee has been sequestered to the team's training room, prompting a running joke among his injured teammates. 

"We're in detention while everybody's having recess," Lee explained on Tuesday afternoon.  

A two-way guard, Lee has frequently outplayed his two-way contract status, becoming a dependable role player. A fractured bone in his right hand impeded that progress, forcing him to miss a month of action. Now, after being upgraded to probable for Wednesday's matchup against the Knicks, he's eager to get back into the fold. 

"I'm good. I'm going out there and not thinking about it. It took its course and it's healed, and everything's fine," Lee said. "When the time comes, I will be out there on the court, and whenever my number's called, just go out there and get the butterflies out early, and just have fun."

Lee -- who suffered a nondisplaced fracture in his right hand last month-- joined the team on its most recent five-game road trip. After missing Monday's loss to Memphis, he participated fully in practice Tuesday morning, including a 3-on-3 scrimmage prior to Tuesday's session. While listed as probable for Wednesday's game against the Knicks, Lee expects to be brought back slowly. 

"I highly doubt I'm going to be out there playing 30, 35 minutes. Just going out there," he said. "Just coming off the bench, just trying to bring that spark, muck up the game, and just have fun with everything."

Following an injury-plagued college career at Drexel and Louisville, Lee went undrafted in 2016, bouncing around the league, including G-League stops with the Maine Red Claws and Golden State's affiliate in Santa Cruz, earning a two-way contract last season. During his tenure in Golden State, he's frequently outplayed his contract. This season -- in a two-way role -- he became a rotation player with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry out for extended time. In an early-season win over the New Orleans Pelicans, he scored a career-high 23 points, adding 11 rebounds. 

His availability comes with a caveat. As a two-way player, he can only be with the Warriors 45 days before he's forced back down to the G-League for the season unless Golden State signs him to a fully guaranteed deal. As of Tuesday, Lee has 31 days left with the Warriors. 

Lee's addition to the roster comes as the roster is getting healthier. In the last week, expected contributors Kevon Looney, Jacob Evans and D'Angelo Russell have returned from various injuries. With a return on the horizon, Lee believes he'll reach his previous production levels with time. 

"I know tomorrow I'm not going to go out there and be perfect. I know I'm not going to make every shot, I'm not going to miss every shot," Lee said. "But it's just going out there and just doing things at game speed. Obviously, being in the game, but preparing at game speed, and just going out there, and once it all starts to click, then it'll obviously go up. Going out there tomorrow, the main thing is just playing hard and having fun."

Ron Adams pinpoints where Warriors need to improve most on defense

Ron Adams pinpoints where Warriors need to improve most on defense

Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams no longer sits on the bench during games, but he still has a very important job.

The 72-year-old is a defensive guru, so it must be painful for him to see Golden State ranked 25th in defensive rating.

"We gotta get much better defending the 3-point shot -- that's kind of been a sticking point," Adams told Warriors radio voice Tim Roye prior to the Dubs' loss to the Grizzlies on Monday night. "But we now have more players, which helps.

"But it's really tough when you're on the road with eight or nine guys."

Well, speaking of defending the arc and losing to Memphis -- the Grizzlies went 15-for-40 (37.5 percent) from deep Monday. They entered the game shooting 34.2 percent (24th in the NBA), averaging 10.8 makes per game (No. 22).

But it wasn't a surprise to see Memphis connect from 3-point territory because the Warriors entered the matchup with the worst 3-point defense in the NBA, allowing opponents to make just under 40 percent of their attempts.

That's really, really bad -- especially when you give up the second most makes per contest (13.8).

[RELATEDReport: 'No world' where Iguodala gets buyout from Grizz]

And it's not like the Dubs suffered bad luck against Memphis.

If they don't clean up this area of the game, the Warriors' rough season only will get uglier.

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