Amir Johnson; Mirza Teletovic; Alan Anderson

The book that helped Shaun Livingston (and maybe saved the Nets’ season)


The Brooklyn Nets started Shaun Livingston for seven of eight games in November when Deron Williams was out injured, and it went pretty poorly.

Livingston shot just 34 percent, and the Nets went 1-6 before replacing him in the starting lineup with Tyshawn Taylor.

That’s when Livingston received Hermann Hesse’s book “Siddhartha” – a tale of a never-ending quest for enlightenment.

Livingston, via Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

“[Nets basketball operations manager Matt] Riccardi gave it to me,” Livingston said after the Nets’ 108-102 win over the 76ers on Monday. “I was going through [some struggles] in December. … I’m a thinker, and I was in my head. I was struggling, and I was struggling mentally more than anything, and that will carry over to the games.

“That was a great book, man. [It’s about] a guy kind of finding himself. … He had to go through the different experiences to find himself, because he was searching for peace. It was a great book.

“You kind of put yourself in that position where you’re like, ‘That’s me,’ you know?” Livingston said, referring to the book’s main character. “But it kind of just helps on the court, I think. Mentally it kind of stabilizes you. You’re like, ‘All right. Nothing else matters. This is just a game,’ and you take all the pressure out of it.

“What I went through [with the injury] was kind of real life. … This is a game. Now, we get paid to do it, people’s jobs are on the line, you understand that. … I understand the professional part of it, the business part of it. But I get more out of it by thinking about it as a game and something you have fun with.”

Phil Jackson famously gave his players books to read, and although current teams can’t emulate everything that made Jackson a great coach, they can at least do that.

It’s easy to see why Livingston related to the main character.

Livingston been searching for his NBA enlightenment ever since a horrific knee injury in 2007 threatened to end his career. After making a remarkable comeback, Livingston has bounced around the league, playing for the Heat, Thunder, Wizards, Bobcats, Bucks, Wizards (again), Cavaliers and now Nets.

Getting knocked from the starting lineup could have lowered Livingston’s resolve to keep searching. Instead, with “Siddhartha” guiding him, he kept looking.

Livingston got another chance to start when Williams got hurt again, and this time, he’s played much better. He’s shot 47 percent, scored more, rebounded more, gotten more steals and is just generally having his best season since the knee injury. Since returning, Deron Williams has even come off the bench behind Livingston.

Best of all, the Nets are 11-4 in their last 15 games with Livingston starting all of them. He hasn’t singlehandedly turned around their season, but he’s been instrumental. Brooklyn has improved because several small pieces have come together, and without any of them – Livingston’s resurgence included – it’s possible the Nets’ season would have spiraled further into despair.

Is this enlightenment for Livingston? Maybe.

If not, he’ll keep searching.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.

Stan Van Gundy calls out Andre Drummond’s effort after loss to Thunder

Andre Drummond
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After a promising start to the season, the Pistons have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 10. And although he’s been outstanding for most of the season, Andre Drummond has not been above receiving criticism from Stan Van Gundy. The coach called out Drummond’s effort on Friday night after a loss to the Thunder.

Via Sportando:

“I didn’t think he brought much energy to the Milwaukee game, and I didn’t think he brought much energy tonight,” Van Gundy said of the two beatings the Pistons received this week. “Why that is, I don’t know. But we need a lot more from him than we got tonight.”

Calling out your best player in the media is bold, but Van Gundy has enough of a track record and a reputation, going back to his days in Orlando with Dwight Howard, that he can get away with it. It also sends a message to the entire team that Van Gundy isn’t going to hold his star to a different standard than the rest of the team.

Despite a couple of poor performances, Drummond is having a career year, leading the league in rebounding at 17.1 per game while also averaging 17.9 points.

Lopez twins don’t live together because their cats don’t get along

Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez
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The Lopez twins have always been close. They were teammates at Stanford, they’re both heavily into comic books (and even write their own together), and they both have Instagram accounts for their cats (here’s Brook’s cat, Poupin, and Robin’s cat, Prince Edward Zephyr). So naturally, this summer, when Brook re-signed with the Nets and Robin signed with the Knicks, the logical thing to do would be to live together. Apparently that isn’t happening, because their cats don’t get along.

Via Kirsten Fleming of the New York Post:

“Brook’s cat is very two-faced,” Robin tells The Post. “Everybody loves Brook’s cat. To everybody’s face, he’s such a nice cat. And it may sound like I’m joking, but I am dead serious. He acts like a lazy, sweet cat when everybody is looking. But when their heads turn, he’ll try to chase after [my cat] Edward. The second I lay eyes on him, he’ll act like, ‘I’m a cherub. I’m innocent.’ I’m not buying it.”

Brook agrees that it would be a bad idea.

“We thought about it,” Brook tells The Post. “But the cats really wouldn’t get along. They just wouldn’t allow it.”

This is an extremely valid reason, even though it’s a disappointing. The Lopez twins are two of the most entertaining people in the NBA, and them living together would have had off-the-charts reality TV potential.