In true Clipper spirit, the 2004 draft represented what could have been. Another high draft pick, another year of promise, of potential and of hope. The dreaded word potential…there’s potential every season, but we will get to our irrational love for this team and penchant for pain in another post. This isn’t about us, it’s about the guys who were drafted in 2004.
Clippers 2004-2005 NBA Draft
- Clippers trade #2 pick (Emeka Okafor) for the #4 and #34
- Clippers pick Shaun Livingston with the #4 pick
- Clippers pick Lionel Chalmers with the #34 pick
Shaun brings back fond, yet painful memories (both literally and figuratively). The fourth pick in the draft was meant to be the future of the Clippers. Point guards who stand at 6’7 with a wingspan of 6’11 don’t come around often. We have the habit of being too fixated on the players height and not enough on the skill set, however Shaun was different. The kid truly possessed point guard skills; a highly intelligent player with solid ball handling and a knack for creativity. He lacked a deft shooting touch, but what he lacked in shooting he made up for in passing ability. His high "basketball IQ," bolstered by his height, gave him above average court vision and enabled him to make passes that most other point guards couldn’t. All he needed to do was grow into his lanky frame…
Writing this saddens me a bit, as I think of what could have been. Shaun was a rare talent with an even rarer physical tool set. Some compared him to Magic Johnson, although I am not ready to go that far. Flashes of brilliance were always stifled by injury ridden seasons. If it weren’t for the injuries…oh right the injuries. Or should I say, THE injury? Coming off a season where the Clippers had made the playoffs for the second time ever (and were one three pointer away from the Western Conference Finals), team confidence was high and Shaun was set for a breakout. The breakout never happened. It ended in a gruesome and devastating injury (thought to be career ending at the time). His leg snapped and he injured almost every part of his knee; tearing the ACL, PCL and the lateral meniscus, badly spraining the MCL, and dislocating his patella and his tibia-femoral joint.
Now, all we will ever talk about is what he could have been. How he would have been great if it weren’t for injuries. Sadly he will be remembered more for his wince inducing knee injury, than for his gifts as a basketball player.
It does not all end badly. As a testament to his desire to play and work ethic, Livingston made an improbable comeback. Doctors had written him off. Most figured he could never play again, let alone at the highest level of basketball. Yet he did. He struggled, fought, went to training camps, auditioned, played in the d-league for two years until he got his chance and played well enough to stick. He had a great season with Charlotte, averaging a per 36 of 13.7 points, 4.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds a game. As part of a deal made during the 2011 draft, he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, where I hope he continues to have success.
Second round picks in the NBA draft usually don’t have outstanding NBA careers and Lionel is no exception. He was a bit older, playing all four years of college and even as a graduate student at Xavier , where he led the team to the elite eight. As a Clipper he played in 34 games, but eventually was traded as a throw in along with Marco Jaric for Sam Cassell, our loveable alien who helped carry the Clippers into the playoffs.
He’s had a fairly solid career overseas. After being let go he’s played in Greece, Russia (where he lead the league in scoring), Italy and now the Eurocup. In 2010 he averaged 16.2 points, 4.3 RPG and 3.8 assists for Enisey Krasnoyarski. He recently signed with Lokomotiv Kuban.