Randy Livingston: "New Orleans will never be the same"
Randy Livingston: I'm in Salt Lake City. I'm here to work out. I came here from New Orleans. Well, from Dallas actually.
How much have you lost due to the hurricane?
RL: Everybody pretty much lost everything in my family. They live in the city. I stayed a little bit outside of the city, but I got flooded too. I took one bag of clothes. And I was lucky I could take that. Everybody has pretty much lost everything.
How's everybody in your family?
RL: Everybody is OK. They now have to pick up the pieces and start over. My mom is in Memphis with my two sisters. My brother is with family in Lake Charles. They are spread out around the country, but at least I know everybody's safe.
Have you got insurance for the things you've lost?
RL: That's such a slow process. My mom did have house insurance. But it's a process that takes so long. It's a tough situation right now, I don't know if people quite understand... And there is very little help from the federal government. It's a tough situation. At least everybody in my family is fine.
In which part of the city did your family live? Was it one of the most affected areas?
RL: My mom's house and my brother's house were affected. They were affected real bad. Everything is pretty much lost.
How do you feel right now?
RL: Well, I feel much better. Couldn't get much sleep because the place that I call home, this city, will never be like it was. I feel a little better now because I was able to get my mother out of New Orleans Friday. She was pretty much stuck in the city. My mother works for the state hospital, so he stayed. They kept telling them they were getting them out. But they got the patients out and left the staff there – the doctors, the workers, the nurses... They sent them to the Superdome. It was very nerve-wracking for me and my family because I knew how the town was. Once I knew my mom was safe, I felt a lot better.
I have one feel-good story about some people in the NBA, in the San Antonio Spurs. I'm a free agent and I got one workout with the Spurs a week earlier and they helped me with this situation. They gave me some contacts to help me find out where my mom was and how she was. That made me feel a lot better. Other than that, I have not really heard from many people in the NBA. I played with Charles Barkley and I've talked with Charles and he told me he would help me in every situation.
But it's sad for me. Every family has to start over. Split families. It's a tragedy. And you really don't know what's going on. I would have liked to help people more out there. Now I'm in Salt Lake City, looking to make a team and send some money back to help as much as I can. I guess now you can send money to the Red Cross, but in this situation you never know where the money is going to. I will try to help as much as I can. People has to help. Try to be a hand-on helper. Maybe adopt some family...
But like I said, I feel better knowing that some progress has been made, that my mom is OK and my family is fine. Others have not been that fortunate.
What do you think about the way the government has been been handling the situation?
RL: It's tough from outside to say. But the fact is people in New Orleans have been struggling. They could have provided more food. You could say they could have done better. I would say I'm disappointed with the way they acted. Them saying they couldn't evacuate... Then they say people are looting and stealing. They were doing that out of desperation. That's pretty much all it was. I had a couple of friends at the Superdome and they are still down there. They told me people did what they did out of necessity because the government really wasn't of much help. They weren't doing enough. They do a lot of stuff in Iraq, they helped out very fast with the tsunamis... The perception is they acted quicker then than they did now with their own citizens in the States. That was definitely a little bit disappointing. At the same time, they are starting to make some progress right now. Hopefully is not too late. But definitely, they could have acted a little bit quicker.
Do you think there is a racial element to this – that things would have been different had more white people been affected? Some black leaders have said just that. Do you feel that way too?
RL: That's the hardest thing for me to swallow. A lot of people in the country don't understand what's going on. They see it on TV, but they don't understand what's going on. The fact is the city is predominantly black. It's 80-85 percent black. And to see people were not getting the help they needed... It was tough to swallow that they didn't act quicker. It was tough to see that. All the excuses they are making, I don't know if you can believe that. I would say it played a part because... I don't know... I don't know how you can send help in two days to the people affected by the tsunamis and here it takes a week to help people in your own country. And then they blame people there for taking things. They can say what they want. I've been watching CNN and they blame them for that. But it was a long time with no food, no water... It seems to me like race played a part in how fast they reacted.
What do you think of the media coverage? Many have complained that TVs have focused too much on the lootings and not so much on the victims. Do you see things that way?
RL: Definitely. I was watching this coverage all over and they didn't know. I was able to talk to my mom and she told me what was going on. In CNN, they show pretty much what they want to show. They show their side. They were talking about black people there, making them look like... like animals, pretty much. Like, "how can they be asking for help while they're doing that stuff?" Whatever they were doing, they were doing out of desperation. But there were many other things going on there that they were not showing. There were people dying of hunger. Tuesday morning I was talking with my mom and she told me she was watching dead bodies in the water and she was telling me how much devastated that area was. Instead, they choose to show the lootings and stuff that's really just people acting desperately.
What we all learned here is that the leadership really was not prepared to handle a situation like this. But it seems things are getting a little bit better now. Anyway, this has been too slow a process for me. Things could have been done much better.
What's next for you now? You're working out for the Jazz?
RL: I'm going to work out here in Salt Lake City. My agent Brian Elfus has been in contact all summer with the Jazz, which is the team where I ended up playing last season, and I will be working out here, in their facilities. I know they have Deron Williams, I know they have signed Milt Palacio... But I think I could get a job here if they want another point guard. If it's not here, hopefully I will get a contract with another NBA team. I just want to make a team a raise more money to help my family and help the city of New Orleans. I just hope people out there in the NBA realize what I can do so I can play in the league another year. If it doesn't happen, maybe I'll have to go overseas. I would do anything to help my family, my people.
So this time you would be amenable to playing in Europe? You have never played in the Euro leagues before. Why is that?
RL: Well, there were a couple of situations... But things didn't work out. I would have played there, but things didn't go as expected. Once I went to Greece. A team wanted me to have a tryout there. I was told that I would get a contract. I went there and I stayed in the hotel with the team never making any contact with me for several days. Then, they told me there was a problem with the drug test, which was totally unbelievable. I've never smoked marijuana, I barely drink... But they came out with that. To me, it was very obvious that they didn't want to give me the contract and they chose to come out with that. That was Greece.
Then I had an offer in Russia and I went to Moscow. I spent several days in the hotel and I never heard from the team for days either. No contact with the team. So those were my European experiences. Things didn't go well then, but I would be willing to play there to help my family. I just want to find a good situation, some place where I can play and there's a serious organization. No bogus stuff. Just one stable organization where I can have some security. I know of many good players that have gone overseas and things have gone well for them there. So if I go there, I would like to enjoy a situation like that.
Do you feel like you've been a little bit unlucky in life? Being a prep star, then having knee problems that didn't allow you to have a great NBA career. And now this...
RL: Like many people in New Orleans, I've always had to fight for things. At least I can say I have good role models in basketball. People like Avery Johnson, Robert Pack, Jaren Jackson... They always encouraged me to fight no matter what happened. And I've done that. Through all the hardships, all the knee injuries, I've always continued fighting. I was told by several teams that maybe I should retire because of my knee, but I never gave up. Besides, all the problems I've had to go through probably made me a better person. And despite all the setbacks, I can say I've had a nine-year NBA career. Besides, I feel healthy now. I was given a clean bill of health by the doctor this summer, so I will keep fighting.
So no, I can't say I feel unlucky. This is the path God chose for me and I persevered and kept fighting. And that's pretty much what Nawlins has to do now. Pick up the pieces, look forward and fight.
Do you think the city of New Orleans will be the same any time soon?
RL: No, I don't think it will be the same. I don't think New Orleans will be the same again. Too much has happened. But you know, God is a good God. Things will get better little by little and this will probably be a good place at one point. Now it's hard, but it's time to start over and rebuild. Too much has been lost, but everything can be repaired except death. And don't believe what they are saying on TV about the amount of dead people. They are talking about hundreds, but it will be much more than that. It will probably go somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 dead people. I know of places that were inundated where people couldn't get out. This is very tough, but you have to start over, wash away all the negativity and rebuild. It's time to rebuild now for this city.
Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com
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