MILWAUKEE The way Shaun Livingston runs up and down the court, the way he puts his body in the middle of action and the way he goes up for dunks, you'd hardly realize he once, not that long ago, was laying on a doctors examination table, unsure if he'd ever play basketball again.
But here he is today, playing a starting role for the Milwaukee Bucks and by all accounts, looking much more like the high school phenom drafted fourth overall in the 2004 NBA draft than the player whose gruesome knee injury is still replayed thousands of times a day on YouTube.
The road to recovery was a long one and the memories are hard to ignore; Livingston's knee bears the scars from numerous surgeries.
After missing the entire 2007-2008 season, Livingston signed with Miami and appeared in just four games during the 2009-09 season. He went to Oklahoma City the next year, and appeared in 18 games with one start over the next two seasons before being traded to Washington in the 2009-10 season.
Livingston appeared in 26 games, starting 18, for the Wizards and averaged 9.2 points and 4.4 assists. That was enough to attract a two-year contract from the Charlotte Bobcats, with whom he averaged 6.6 points and 2.2 assists in 73 appearances last season, all off the bench.
He was dealt to Milwaukee in a three-team, draft day trade that also brought Stephen Jackson and Beno Udrih to the Bucks, who gave up John Salmons and Corey Maggette, in the hopes of adding some much-needed scoring punch.
So far, Livingston has flourished with the Bucks.
This season, he's appeared in all 33 games and has started 20, averaging 7.6 points and 2.3 assists in 23.2 minutes per night, playing mostly at the shooting guard position alongside point guard Brandon Jennings.
Originally, Livingston appeared destined for a reserve role and early in the season, performed well in that capacity. But when Stephen Jackson found himself out of the rotation, Livingston found himself in a starting role for the first time in two seasons.
His versatility -- Livingston can play either guard position -- has made him a valuable asset to a team that's struggled with inconsistency and injury this season. And his size, especially his wingspan, creates matchup problems for opponents that allows Livingston to show flashes of the player he was once believed to be.
And while he's a good shooter -- he's hitting at a 47.4 percent clip this season -- he's also shown the willingness and ability to put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop and even, on occasion, go up for the dunk.
"It's incredible that he's been able to come back and be productive in the pro game again," Bucks head coach Scott Skiles says.
Livingston is grateful for the opportunity. He's grateful just to be back in the NBA. It wasn't that long ago that he thought his career might be over.
He readily admits he's a much different player today than he was when he first came into the league. He's still athletic, but the injury has forced him to change his game, which is much more cerebral than it was in the beginning.
"When I first came to the NBA, I had to rely on my athletic ability," Livingston says. "Now I can't rely on that as much, so I have to really think the game through."
For the most part, Livingston is pain-free. There is the occasional nagging soreness and other symptoms that are natural following such a catastrophic injury, but all of it is manageable with proper care and treatments.
"It's probably at about 80 to 90 percent of what it was," Livingston says. "I'm at a point now where I don't feel my leg is going to give out. My leg doesn't get tired before the rest of my body gets tired now."
Former teammates are happy to see him back, as well -- especially those who saw first-hand the devastation of Livingston's injury.
"I'm happy for him," said New Orleans center Chris Kaman, who played for the Clippers from 2003 to 2011. "He's worked hard. It's good to see him out there playing again and he's doing really well for them."
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