We’ve all seen it. You go to an outdoor basketball court or the Y, and some young hot shots are dominating the action. They win game after game, having fun and belittling their opponents.
Then some old guys show up, move the ball around on offense, keep people in front of them on defense, play a little more physical, and they knock the young turks off their pedestal.
Why? Because they know how to play the game. They’ve been around, and know how to take advantage of players who are cocky and overly aggressive.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have two of those guys on their roster and they are contributing on a night in and night out basis. They are Shaun Livingston and Luke Walton.
Livingston was a Christmas present from GM Chris Grant to coach Byron Scott, being claimed on waivers that very day. For whatever reason, the Washington Wizards, who were struggling as badly as the Cavs at that time, couldn’t use the veteran who was once the 4th overall pick in the draft in 2004.
Their loss is Cleveland’s gain.
Livingston’s value isn’t found in the stat sheet. He’s averaging just 5. 3 points and 3.4 assists a game in the 25 contests he’s played in the wine and gold. But he is a steady hand and a catalyst for a bench bunch that is one of the most potent in the league after the acquisition of Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington from Memphis a few weeks later.
The Cavs have gone 13-13 since Livingston started playing. They were 7-25 prior to that point.
Livingston overcame a horrible knee injury in 2007 and really didn’t play a full season for three years. He was a heralded high school player, but as Scott said when he arrived, he is an old soul when it comes to hoops, playing the game they way it is meant to be played. He makes the right pass and for the most part keeps himself between his man and the basket on defense.
Walton came to the Cavs as someone who could balance the salary cap in the trade that sent Ramon Sessions to the Lakers at the trade deadline last season. He was a starter for LA in 2006-07 and started half the time the following two campaigns.
However, when Grant obtained him, he had played just nine games for the season due to back woes.
He’s another player that stats don’t tell the real story, averaging just 3.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 16 minutes per game. Early in the year, many fans (including us) were wondering why he was getting time, probably because he struggled playing with young guys who don’t share his IQ for the game.
Since the addition of Speights, Ellington, and Livingston, Walton has made a difference coming off the bench for the young Cavaliers. In that time, he’s averaged just 2.8 points, but has had five games (out of 11) where he has had five or more assists.
And he made a key defensive play late in Tuesday’s win over Chicago, knocking a pass away, and then firing it off a Bulls’ player in the final minute to preserve the lead.
Lost in most fans’ wishes for high draft choices is the fact that young teams need veterans to learn from. With the players acquired from Memphis, plus heady players like Livingston and Walton, Chris Grant has given his young guys some worthy teachers.