Isaiah Livers finding his rhythm with Detroit Pistons after return from foot injury

Detroit Free Press

It’s been nearly a full year since a stress fracture in Isaiah Livers’ right foot prematurely ended his Michigan basketball career. On March 12, 2021, he exited Michigan’s Big Ten tournament victory over Maryland due to discomfort in the foot.

Before he was drafted 42nd overall by the Detroit Pistons in July, Livers didn’t think it would take long to return to the floor and was hoping he would be healthy by late summer. But he underwent surgery April 2, and received a six-month estimate for his return. 

That, too, proved to be optimistic. But Livers is finally back. The sharpshooter has appeared in four consecutive games for the Pistons, and the team is prioritizing getting an extended look at their second-round pick as the season winds down. Livers is eager to show what he can do after such a long layoff.

“At first I was like, ‘Nah. I’m going to try to get back for summer league,’ ” Livers said after Sunday’s practice. “Just talking to the doctors, my agents, they were like, ‘Nah. It’s one of those injuries we’re going to be safe rather than sorry.’

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“It was hard because you’re a competitor, you want to play, especially as a rookie.”

Livers made his NBA debut against the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 16, but more than two months passed before his second game. He began to feel soreness in the injured foot, and the Pistons shut him down again until the pain went away.

“The Pistons were like, ‘Let’s take our time, a month, a month and a half, two months, whatever you need just to get back right,’ ” Livers said. “It helped. It was perfect. I was in here grinding.

“They wanted to make sure I didn’t re-stress or re-aggravate the cervical part of my foot,” he continued. “It was really just some foundation stuff — more mobility, more strength — and we were good.”

Livers was a career 41.2% 3-point shooter at Michigan, and knocked down 43.1% as a senior. It’s a skill the Pistons — who have shot poorly for most of the season — could sorely use. Livers’ first game since returning from injury rehab was Feb. 27; he knocked down two of four 3-point attempts.

He’s still finding his overall rhythm after missing so much time. He’s similarto Frank Jackson, who has missed seven of Detroit’s past eight games with a back injury. But Livers is bigger than Jackson, primarily a shooting guard, and Livers is better suited as a small forward or small-ball power forward.

“I thought the other night in Toronto, he was a little frenetic,” Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said. “I thought the game was a little fast for him, for whatever reason. That’s part of being a young kid. That’s what these next 18 games allows for him to play. I thought he was a little more relaxed in that last game against Indiana. This is what these games are about.”

Casey praised Livers’ overall basketball IQ and defensive versatility. It remains to be seen how Livers will fit into the rotation once Jackson returns, but his focus for now is showcasing the skills that led to him being drafted.

“There are cases where I can put the ball on the floor, create for others and try to be as unselfish as possible,” Livers said. “There’s a lot more to my bag that people know about. Rookie season is all about doing your job, playing your role the right way. I promised Casey I would do that.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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