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For Chris McCullough, NBA is the dream, but struggle is the reality

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When the Warriors came to Barclays Center earlier this month, the big story was about all "The Streak," but there was another story as well, one that took place off to the side. Chris McCullough, still not cleared to play, met up with Shaun Livingston, late of the Nets, to talk rehab and recovery.

After McCullough blew out his knee in early January, at Syracuse a big part of his emotional recovery was modeling himself after Livingston, now an NBA champion. Livingston had gone through a far lengthier, far more painful recovery and rehab after a horrific injury early in his career.

As Mike Mazzeo recounts, after the injury but before his surgery, McCullough read an article Livingston had written the month before in Players Tribune.  "McCullough read it again. And again. And again," writes Mazzeo."'That was my motivation,'" says McCullough."

It helped him get through the grind of rehab and now nearing his NBA debut, McCullough wanted to meet and thank Livingston.

The timetable leading to that debut is still a well-kept secret inside the Nets, but Mazzeo writes there is some light at the end of McCullough's tunnel.  "A broad timetable suggests that McCullough ends up returning to practice sometime before the All-Star break and then ultimately making his NBA debut sometime after its conclusion."  Or around the same time Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be back, according to the latest schedule..

His NBA debut will likely make his nervous and his uncle, who lives with him in Edgewater, NJ, says it could take fie to ten games for him to get back on track.  Others inside say it will take a lot longer for him to show his potential. He is after all only 20, the youngest Brooklyn Net ever and the youngest Net since Derrick Favor.

Still, it will be the culmination of yet another long journey for one of the Nets whose collective history is filled with tragedy.  For McCullough, who grew up in the tough Andrew Jackson Homes in the Bronx, the most memorable was a 12-year-old friend who took off one night for Brooklyn and never returned.

"Most of the people I grew up with are locked up now or probably dead," McCullough told Mazzeo. "I was the one that always wanted to play basketball and be successful. That's what I did, and now I'm in the NBA. That just always kept me motivated."