Who's Got Next? (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday January 22, 2008 11:09AM; Updated: Thursday January 24, 2008 5:13PM
But Livingston will find it difficult to stop playing while he remains so effective. Through Sunday he was averaging 16.2 points and a league-high 11.1 assists in 40.4 minutes and had led the Stampede to a 17-5 record, the best in the league. Most impressive is his enthusiasm despite misfortune that might have made others feel cheated: When Livingston arrived in Baton Rouge in 1993 he was viewed as a peer to Jason Kidd, a rare blend of instinct, intelligence and slashing athletic talent. But two major knee injuries limited him to 31 games at LSU, and now here he was a dozen years later in Boise.
"If I wasn't getting hurt and I was a superstar at the next level, I don't know if I would have been as humble and appreciative of a lot of things," he says. "Maybe I wouldn't care about helping the young guys out. Maybe I wouldn't care about the game as much because I had so much athletic ability. Looking back on it, I just know in my heart I would have been one of the best guards to ever play. But off the court? I don't know."
In the locker room before the Stampede took the floor for its opening game of the Showcase, Gates addressed the tension felt by every player but Sene, McRoberts and perhaps Livingston. The rest knew that dozens of NBA talent evaluators were in the stands and that one big outing might change their careers. "You guys have worked so hard for one of these moments," the coach said. "All these guys are watching because you've earned the right for them to watch you play."
The speech was meant particularly for Allred, the 6' 11", 250-pound center who had come a long way just to reach this point. An illness at birth cost Allred 75% of his hearing, and he was raised in polygamist communities in Montana and Utah before his parents left the Allred Group, which was founded by Lance's grandfather Rulon Allred, who was assassinated by rival polygamists in 1977. "It's amazing if you sit in a polygamist home long enough and just watch from the kitchen table," Lance says. "You see the several wives or sister wives, you see all the manipulating and politicking going on, and it's just fascinating. They'll team up and say, 'We've got to get our husband to do this, let's all stick together.' But then one of them goes away, and then another one goes away and another -- and then when the husband comes back in the room and they're all away but one, she will sell them all down the river to the husband to get what she wants.
"But it's nothing I want any part of. Because marriage with one person, that's hard enough. Imagine being married to seven people?"
Allred, who is single, did not play organized basketball until he was 14, and he had to learn how to read defenders and others' body language to compensate for what he couldn't hear on the court. (He removes his $5,000 hearing aids before games because crowd noise -- even in the sparsely populated D-League arenas -- renders them ineffective.) In the fall of 2006 he barely made the Stampede roster but then took advantage of late-season openings and played well enough over the last three weeks to enter training camp last fall as Idaho's starting center, with a salary of $24,000. He was averaging a solid 18.8 points and 10.6 rebounds entering the Showcase yet had been able to sleep only three hours on the eve of the Stampede's first game, so consumed was he by this rare opportunity to prove that he was capable of playing in the NBA. An obsessive-compulsive personality who tends to demand perfection of himself, he lay on his back near Idaho's bench before the introductions with his knees bent high like twin pyramids, his thumbs wedged in between his teeth. This is my energy, he told himself. All I can do is worry about what I can control and not the stuff that's beyond my control.
Three minutes into the game he took a pass from his roommate, forward Cory Violette, and spun in a short turnaround jumper. "Hitting your first shot, that's always crucial," he said afterward. He tipped in another basket, sank another short jumper and then squared up from 16 feet, launching a jump shot with a two-handed style reminiscent of grainy films from the 1960s. The ball settled softly into the net like a cat snuggling into a blanket.
Rebound and run, Allred kept reminding himself. Rebound and run and keep it simple. He finished the opening quarter with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and six rebounds. His final numbers were just as impressive: a team-high 24 points (9 of 11 from the field) and 12 rebounds in 25 minutes of Idaho's win. Because first impressions are so crucial, it was exactly the performance he would have asked for.
Afterward and through the rest of the week, Allred and his agent, John Greig, received congratulations and assurances that a callup to the NBA would be forthcoming. And so they waited. As of Sunday they were still waiting -- as was every other player who had been in Boise except for Shannon Brown.
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