At the Clippers Media Day on Friday, the most underrated point guard of the last decade joked around with the best point guard of the next decade.
It's really hard to overstate the importance of Shaun Livingston to this team over the coming years. Less than three weeks into the season, Cassell will turn 37, and by my count he is the 5th oldest active player in the NBA (Mutumbo, Cliff Robinson, Payton and P.J. Brown are older). He will likely be the oldest player in the NBA in 2007-2008.
Point guard is THE most important position in basketball, so it is self-evident that the Clippers need a quality replacement for Sam-I-Am. BUT, this goes way beyond being the starter. Those of us who are predicting great things for this Clippers team are basing those predictions on Shaun Livingston. Not that he will be a good NBA point guard, but that he will be a game-changer, a difference-maker. The guy is a pass-first point guard with a seven foot wingspan. He plays terrific defense, and sees the floor better than anyone in the league. His shooting range has been much-maligned, but he doesn't even have to be a great shooter to be successful. With his size and handle, he'll be able to get an 18 footer any time he wants it. He just needs to be able to stick that shot and he will be unstoppable. And of course you can't double team him, because he'll slice you up like a surgeon.
The NBA remains a superstar driven league, and as terrific as Elton Brand was last year, he is NOT the kind of player you just give the ball to and say 'Get us a bucket.' Even during his-MVP caliber season, it was usually Cassell who had the ball in the waning seconds of close games. Soon, that will be Livingston. More times than not, he will not be the shooter in those situations, but he will be the instigator, the guy who creates the shot. And the top teams, the best teams, the teams that win rings, all have that guy who you simply can't guard. The guy who can make something happen in the last 5 minutes when the opponents dig in and play the toughest defense they know how to play. For the Clippers to make the next step, that guy needs to be Shaun Livingston. Soon.