In 2007, Shaun Livingston laid on a stretcher in the Staples Center after suffering one of the most gruesome injuries in sports history. Ten years later, he hoisted the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy for the second time in his career.
Several analysts and medical professionals thought Livingston would never play again, and if he did, he would never be an impact player. With an emphasis on his physical therapy and a will to play again, Livingston only sat out for one full season as was back on the court for the 2008-2009 season.
He still was not the same player he showed he could be on the Clippers. For nine season, he hopped around from team to team playing nonexistent roles on contenders to limited rolls on below average teams.
He improved though. He did not rush the process. He did not demand bigger roles or contracts. He stayed withing himself and improved. By the 2013-2014 season, he was averaging close to nine points per game, which was the second most of his career.
Then he joined the Warriors. He provided an instant match up nightmare at the point guard position with his length and post up abilities.
For three seasons now, he has served as a major contributor to the Warriors. He is the first guard off the bench and logs in the sixth most minutes on the team. Maybe being the sixth best player on arguably the greatest team of all time was less than what people expected when he was drafted fourth overall in 2004, but that is not a bad career.
Like Livingston, Derrick Rose saw his status go from superstar to after thought because of an injury. The former MVP was incredible for his first four years before he suffered a season ending injury in the playoffs of his MVP season. Since then, he has not had the bounce he used to. His cuts are slower. His defense is a step slow. His number have declined.
Rose has not taken the step back like Livingston did. When he got healthy again in Chicago, he wanted to be the man there again. He wanted the offense to revolve around him. He rushed into his roel too quickly. The Bulls had a new name in town, and Jimmy Butler was simply a better player than Rose.
So Rose left and joined the New York Knicks. He called his team one of the three “superteams” in the NBA before the season, clearly showing the naivety of his evaluation of his potential. Despite putting up 18 points per game, he shot barely 20% from behind the arc, dished out the lowest number of assists of his career and ended his season with yet again, another injury.
It’s time for Rose to take his own step back. It’s time for him to take a pay cut and join a contender as a sixth or seventh man. He could put up huge numbers in a second unit, and his defensive liabilities would not be exploited by backup point guards.
Imagine if he took Deron William’s role on the Cavs? The upgrade the defending Eastern Conference champions would receive at that position would be monumental. A contender with lack of scoring off the bench like the Cavs would kill for Rose.
But he needs to take that step back. He needs to know his role if he made this switch. Livingston knows he’s the sixth option on the team. He knows to create looks for the superstars on his team before looking for his own shot. Rose would have to do the same.
Livingston is playing his best basketball of his career. He is winning NBA Championships. He is contributing. And he is finally getting something out of his career. Rose needs to strive to be like Livingston. He needs to find a team to play second fiddle on. And maybe, just maybe, he can end his career with some positive memories.