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.