There were 45 seconds left in overtime, when Shaun Livingston stepped back on to the Verizon Center floor. Up until that point, he had only been in the game for a total of two minutes, which was hardly enough time to gain any sort of momentum. Yet here he was at a crucial point in the game, expected to execute what should have been a simple play.
After calling his final full timeout, Saunders substituted Livingston into the game, and asked him to inbound the ball. The Wizards had yet to score in the overtime period, and although the Knicks had only scored two points, they were in the lead and time was running out.
The referee handed the ball to Livingston, and instantly he frantically began to look for a teammate to pass to, but could not find anyone. Finally, Livingston called a timeout, hoping that Saunders could use one of the two -20 second time outs he had left, but it wasn’t to be. The referee blew the whistle, turned to face the scorer’s table, and indicated that a five second violation had taken place.
Livingston pleaded his case to no avail, and then found himself right back on the bench, after Saunders asked Mike Harris to check into the game for him.
There were 45 seconds on the clock and the Wizards went on to lose to the New York Knicks 118-116.
After the game, I asked Livingston about his version of the inbounds play.
“The ref was standing right next to me, and usually when they call a five second its always on the fifth count, after five one-thousand, ” Livingston recounted as he buttoned up his shirt after the game. “I called that timeout between the five and the one-thousand but I guess it was too late. I thought I made it, but he saw it differently.”
I followed up by asking Livingston if he thought his inactivity (he hasn’t played since he was cut by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec 22, 2009) had anything to do with his decision making.
“It very could have and my timing could be a bit off in those instances. But then again, the last time I got one of those, I had to be in fifth grade, ” Livingston said while laughing.
In his post game press conference, Coach Saunders addressed the difficult situation that Livingston, and the other new players on the team currently face.
“We had to play some guys that really haven’t had a chance to practice with us. And in their first they are in that situation, which isn’t totally fair to those guys.” Saunders said. “But we really had no choice.”
Earlier in the day, before being thrown into the fire, Livingston signed a 10-day contract with the Wizards. After the horrific knee injury that occurred while he was with Los Angeles Clippers back in February of 2007, Livingston rehabbed hard for a year and a half to get that knee back into playing shape. He appeared in four games with the Miami Heat, 18 games with Oklahoma City Thunder, he did a brief stint in the Minnesota Timberwolves training camp and he even spent sime time with the Tulsa 66ers of the D League before arriving the Wizards.
Prior to tonight’s game, Coach Saunders discussed why the Wizards signed Livingston.
“He’s definitely always been able to pass the ball and I think he’s a guy that if he can ever get healthy again, he’s got unbelievable basketball instincts and high IQ, ” Saunders told the media. “To his credit, he’s fought back to put himself back in a position where he made Oklahoma City, as far as the beginning of the year, and now he has another opportunity. Randy Wittman (current Washington Wizards assistant, formerly with the Timberwolves) had him last year in September. And seeing him a year ago to where he is now its like 100% difference from where he was.”
I asked Livingston what he had been doing to stay in shape and whether he thought he’d be back in the NBA, once he was cut by Oklahoma City.
“I’ve just been trying to stay in shape as best I can. Nothing replaces that real game experience, but I’ve been shooting and doing cardio and all, ” Livingston told Hoops Addict. “But the Thunder cut me because they were actually trading for a player (rookie Eric Maynor), so it was a numbers game, but I knew I had proven I could play, so I just stayed patient.”
Since the earlier inbounds play had been so influential in the game, I decided to end my interview, by revisiting that play and his feelings about it. I asked him if the outcome of that play would tamper his joy about having another chance with this Washington Wizards team.
“Ideally it always feels good to get a win, and I think I could have done more with the opportunity, but hopefully there will be another one.”
Luckily for Shaun Livingston, that next opportunity comes on Sunday, when his Wizards take on the worst team in the NBA: The New Jersey Nets.