Waiting on Livingston, analyzing the Jazz and more
Posted: Tuesday February 27, 2007 12:39PM; Updated: Wednesday February 28, 2007 2:21PM
It was truly sad (and a little nausea-inducing) to see the Clippers' Shaun Livingston go down Monday with a dislocated left kneecap that will sideline the third-year point guard for the rest of the season. Another significant injury means the Clippers will have to wait even longer for Livingston to truly emerge.
Livingston has improved a little bit since a promising (and, at times, exhilarating) rookie season, but even after dealing with time on the bench and the usual baby steps one has to take as a point guard hitting the NBA right out of high school, we'd hoped for more by now. Normalize his stats to 40 minutes a game in order to make up for changes in the Clippers' rotation, and you'll notice just how much the kid's game has been stuck in second gear (chart, right).
Where's the breakout? And, with someone like Monta Ellis averaging 20.3 points and 4.9 assists (in, admittedly, a much faster offensive scheme) per 40 minutes in his second season with the Warriors, when should we start to worry? Some Clippers fans have been uneasy about this lack of development since the season's first month, partially because of his potential for greatness, but mostly because Livingston represents the only remaining lottery-era cog who could push this team over the top -- especially with the other recent selections either having been overpaid (Chris Kamen) or overhyped (Yaroslav Korolev, still in the league).
Injury aside, and regardless of whether the Clippers were to make the playoffs with Livingston playing a big role (L.A. is the eighth seed entering Tuesday's games), this summer was going to be the crossroads of Livingston's career. There's no shame in becoming the next Pete Myers -- we're serious about that -- but Livingston still has it in him to turn into something great. Here's hoping the time off will provide the impetus for the needed breakthrough.
The Utah Jazz appear to typify exactly what it means to be in the NBA in 2007, I'm convinced of it. The team runs a whole lot more than it did last season; it's dealt with injuries to some of its best players; and, like just about every other squad in this gun-shy association, Utah passed on adding some needed parts during last week's trade deadline.
That last part is damning, as the Jazz desperately need someone to score and (most important) defend from the wing position. Utah lost to the Lakers on Monday night, while sending Kobe Bryant to the line 24 times. The Jazz have won eight of their last 11 games, but the opposing shooting guard has paced both teams in scoring in all three losses. This is easily Utah's major issue at this point -- though, as far as "major issues" go, the Jazz could do a lot worse.
Utah is on pace for 55 wins despite the off-guard hole (and other defensive shortcomings), an injury to Carlos Boozer and the worst season of Andrei Kirilenko's career. Boozer continues to impress, especially after fracturing his left tibia in late January and missing only eight games. After playing just 84 contests in his first two seasons with the Jazz and putting up with (deserved) musings about his ability to play through pain from all sides, his efforts have been a welcome sight. He still hasn't blocked a shot since Dec. 17, but he's contributing 21.5 points (on just 15.7 shots) and 11.5 rebounds a game.
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