One look at 6-foot-7 Shaun Livingston and you see a size dimension not previously available in the Wizards backcourt. The pass-first point guard's ability to facilitate offense is another trait that's been lacking in Washington without John Wall running the attack. Randy Wittman hopes that won't be the case going forward now that the ex-Wizard is back.
"He gives us a guy that knows how to play, good basketball IQ," the Wizards coach said after Friday's practice and one day after the 27-year-old veteran rejoined the team. Wittman served as an assistant when Livingston played 26 games late in the 2009-10 season for the Wizards. "He’s got a good feel. We’re doing some of the same stuff when he was here before and we had him here. I’m familiar with him, so I thought he had a good practice for the first practice."
For his part Livingston, is simply happy being part of any practice. Traded from Milwaukee to Houston during the summer but released by the Rockets before the start of the regular season, Livingston has been working out in Florida. Now he's back in Washington and prepping for his first game. The Wizards (0-7) host Utah (4-6) Saturday night.
"Feels good. It's an opportunity to play," Livingston said. "Just being anxious. I haven't played yet this year. I'm just anxious to get out there, very anxious. Just gotta get my legs back, get my wind up and I'll be alright."
Playing for six teams over seven seasons, Livingston averaged 6.8 points and 3.5 assists. He credits his previous opportunity in Washington with resurrecting his career.
The fourth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers - where he played with current Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell - suffered a devastating left knee injury in 2007. Out for the entire 2007-08 season, the Illinois native's return included brief stints with Miami and Oklahoma City before landing with Washington in 2010.
"It was kind of at the turning point in my career with my knee. I was dealing with the struggles of trying to make the transition back on the court consistently and not a game here, then sit a game," said Livingston, who made 18 starts with the Wizards under former coach Flip Saunders, averaging 9.2 points and 4.4 assists.
"Flip really gave me the chance... the opportunity to play consistent minutes. My knee kind of responded well thank God, and I got a chance to get some confidence in me. Kind of reform my game."
Now he's back, replacing reserve point guard Jannero Pargo.
"I thought we needed to get another playmaker," said Wittman of the roster decision. "Never an easy decision, but one when he became available, I had some familiarity with [him] and I think he can help us."
While Pargo offered more help as a perimeter shooter, Livingston's pure point guard skills and size creates other options for the coach.
"Obviously, you can post him some," Wittman said. "He just knows how to run a team. He knows which guys are hot, how to get them the ball, that type of thing. And the size. I think he gives us good size at that position we haven’t had."
Wittman said Livingston, who joins a position currently manned by starter A.J. Price, was in "fair shape" considering he's missed game action. The pair will direct traffic while also vying for what ultimately figures to be the primary backup role when Wall returns possibly by the end of November.
"I’ve been playing against him for a while now," said Price, a high school contemporary of Livingston. "He’s very good. He’s only going to help the team in my opinion. He’ll give us what we need. I’m not sure how we’ll use him minutes-wise, but a little competition brings out the best in everybody."
After previously wearing number two in Washington, a number now worn by Wall, Livingston will don 14 which at the time was occupied by Al Thornton. Other teams inquired about his availability following his release, but Livingston said, "I think this really gave me the opportunity to be back in a familiar system and get good playing time and get a chance for me to show what I can do out there."
Which is to help a team ranked 27th in scoring generate points.
"Just I think to maximize guy's potential, just the scoring on the wing, low post with Kevin [Seraphin], just trying to get easy buckets as well," Livingston said of his role. I think everything's been kind of hard from what I've watched, been kind if bogged down and hopefully I can help get guys easy buckets. You get a couple easy buckets you get some confidence, get some momentum you'll play a little bit looser."