Charlotte Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins was just trying to fill a couple of needs when he signed then-free agents center Kwame Brown and guard Shaun Livingston.
With starting center Tyson Chandler and starting point guard Raymond Felton gone and limited salary cap space, Higgins options to get two productive and inexpensive players were limited.
However, the Bobcats GM found a way by signing Brown to a $1.3 million, one-year deal and signing Livingston to a two-year deal worth about $7 million last summer.
More importantly, these two players have turned out to be more than just mere role players despite their struggles with injuries over the past years. They are two major reasons the Bobcats (24-32) are only one game out of the playoffs with 26 games remaining this season and have overcome a dismal 9-19 start.
Bobcats guard Stephen Jackson said it is great having Livingston because he creates mismatches on blocks due to the 6-7 guard’s ability to post up smaller guards. Jackson said Livingston allows him and other players to get more open shots. Jackson believes Livingston’s ability to get in the lane and see over shorter defenders has been a plus because it allows Charlotte to have another playmaker.
Jackson is glad the team has Brown too. He said every team needs a presence in the middle and having assistant coach Charles Oakley has benefitted Brown.
“I think the good thing is both of those guys have been around,” Jackson said after Monday’s practice. “Both of those guys are professionals. They have been around a couple of years, so they know how to play. I think with Kwame he just needed confidence. Coach (Paul Silas) has been great at giving him confidence to go out there and play and be aggressive on offense. And he has been great.
“Shaun, it is no telling what player he would be if he didn’t have that knee injury and for him go out there and get 18 and 15 points a night for us and come out there and run our team is special. That is something we definitely needed with Ray leaving.”
Livingston, who has come off the bench to have a career-high 22 points on the road against the Atlanta Hawks about a week ago, sees part of his job is to provide some scoring, especially with forward Tyrus Thomas being out with an injured knee. Livingston views his middle-range game and his ability to post up guards as growth.
“I have always worked on my game and worked on the skill aspect of it,” Livingston said. “I watched a lot of tape growing up, and I always had the foot work to do it. That is the biggest thing to being in the post – to be able to make moves and get to the spots. Then just growing, it is a part of my game that has grown. I had the chance to play with Sam Cassell, one of the greatest post up guards to play against, so he taught me a lot as well.”
Livingston wants to provide energy when he comes in the game and allow the team to function well while starting point guard D.J. Augustin gets rest. He said Silas wants him to be confident, aggressive offensively and shoot when open.
Livingston, who averages 6.1 points and 2.1 assists a game, is excited about being in Charlotte after playing 28 games last season with the Washington Wizards. He loves having the opportunity to play a lot of minutes after having to overcome a career-threatening knee injury in 2007. Livingston also said Brown, who has been the starter since the Jan. 3 contest against the Miami Heat, has taken advantage of the opportunity to play.
“With (DeSagana) Diop going down, and Tyrus Thomas going down, he jumped straight into the starting spot,” Livingston said of Brown. “You have to play and you have to perform. That is what we expect out of him and he knows how to do it.”
Brown has more than lived up to the expectations of his teammates. He scored 13 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in a 94-89 road win over the Sacramento Kings late last month. The next night in a 114-107 win over the Phoenix Suns, he had another double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Brown, who averages 7 points and 6.7 rebounds, believes the key for him was getting healthy this season. After having to overcome shoulder, leg and hand injures in recent years, Brown severely sprained his left ankle before the season, which caused him to miss training camp.
But when the 6-11 center returned his production increased and he brought a toughness in the center position the Bobcats lacked. That no-back-down attitude was displayed in a 94-89 upset win over the Boston Celtics when Brown was hit hard twice by center Kendrick Perkins.
After an official called Perkins for a foul for hitting Brown a second time in his face, the Bobcats center let the Celtics center know that his tactics will not work by going in his face and having words.
“That is what you have to do,” Brown said about getting in Perkins’ face and telling the Celtics center what he did was uncalled for. “Nobody in this league really wants to fight. There are only a very few guys who really want to fight. You got a couple of guys who act tough. You can’t let anybody push you around. I’m not trying to promote violence, but at the same time you have to defend yourself when somebody out there is trying to push you around.”
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