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Good Prognosis For One LA Franchise Point Guard

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Of course, it's his own prognosis.  But it is some good news nonetheless.

And -- gotcha! -- it isn't for the Los Angeles team that is currently preparing for a Finals match-up with our beloved Boston Celtics.

Nope, this good news is for Shaun Livingston, the one-time fourth overall pick and supposed franchise point guard for the little brother Clippers.

According to the OC Register's Art Thompson III, Livingston says that he expects to be back on the basketball court this month.   Though he may just be playing pick-up, this is critical for his future, as the Clips have until the end of the month to extend a $5.8 million qualifying offer to him.  If they decline to do so, he'll hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

It's unfortunate to think that thanks to Livingston's actual level of production during his time on the court and the health concerns that have kept him off it, withholding the offer may well be the way the Clippers choose to go, and it may be a reasonable choice at that.  But from a purely sentimental standpoint, given the wringer this 22-year-old has been through with injuries, and given his unique physique and potential, here's hoping (from at least one non-partisan fan) that the Clips give the youngster one more shot.

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Statistically, the former high school player from Peoria, Ill., hasn't blown any doors off with his productivity.  In his three active seasons, he has compiled averages of 7.4 points and 4.8 assists in 27.2 minutes per game while shooting just 44 percent from the field, 23 percent from deep and 71 percent from the line.  Not too impressive.  Nor is the fact that he has never played more than 61 games in a season.  Sounds a lot like the sort of player yours truly would generally be inclined to give up on altogether.

But I can't do it with this kid.  Perhaps I'm finally getting sucked into the age-old trap about the value of potential, but I really want to believe that Shaun Livingston is special.

At 6-foot-7 and 182 pounds, Livingston has an incredibly rare body type at the point.  He has the size to post up anyone he matches up with at his position, and that height advantage provides the offenses he runs with a built-in versatility.  Livingston can create from the top like a traditional point guard, or his team can feature him in the low post and let his teammates work off him.  We've seen the same in the past from Jason Kidd, except that Livingston is three inches taller and has the capability to become a far better scorer than Kidd has been over the years.  His ability to see over opposing defenders adds passing lanes galore into his sight lines, and Livingston has already shown in flashes before that he is gifted with his own pretty brand of passing vision.   In addition, prior to the injury, Livingston never lacked for quickness either.  Get in the lane with ease, post up, thread the needle in any variety of ways: The youngster has long had the tools to do it all.

One of the big questions has always been Livingston's shooting, but he had begun to make progress in that area in 2006-07, his first season as a semi-regular starter (31 starts in 54 appearances).  He shot career highs of 46.3 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from deep.  Not overly impressive, but a major step forward from prior career bests of 42.7 and 12.5 percent respectively.  Though his individual numbers weren't gaudy by any stretch, Livingston showed signs of becoming much more comfortable as a professional court general and at times really looked to be settling into the offense.  He had his share of nights on which he appeared to be a soon-to-be-budding star, including a dominant 14-point, 14-assist performance (on 6-of-11 shooting, no less) in a victory over Golden State just two nights before the injury that ended his season.

Speaking of injuries, Livingston's last one was particularly ugly, and it's for that reason that we've chosen not to embed the clip right here.  In short, he landed awkwardly on a fast break.  His knee bent in a way it wasn't built to bend, and just about anything and everything inside that could have been absolutely decimated was.  It cost him the back end of the 2006-07 season and the whole of this past campaign.  One can only imagine the sort of work Livingston must have had to do in order to get back anywhere close to playing shape, and it seems difficult not to be rooting for him to experience success in his return to the floor.

Shaun Livingston didn't live up to his potential in his first three professional seasons, and his health didnt either.  But he is still just 22 years old and in possession of an incredible set of physical gifts.  If he can regain full health, he'll have plenty of time to turn into that difference-maker the Clippers believed they were getting when they drafted him in 2004.

For the sake of the enjoyment of basketball observers everywhere, here's hoping Shaun Livingston does just that.