Austin Rivers isn’t particularly good at basketball, at least not yet. But Doc Rivers traded for him anyway. How will this conflict of interest work?
Normally, a trade to acquire a player averaging 6.8 points, 2.4 assists while shooting an anemic .387 from the field doesn’t move the needle in the press. After peeling off the layers and realizing said player is Austin Rivers with him heading to his father’ team, the Los Angeles Clippers, well, that adds a whole new level of intrigue.
If you didn’t know, the Los Angeles Clippers, coached by Doc Rivers, made official on Thursday a trade acquiring his son, Austin, from the Boston Celtics. The Clippers, in a three-team deal, sent Chris Douglas-Roberts and a 2017 second round pick to the Celtics, while the Phoenix Suns acquired Reggie Bullock from the Clippers and the Celtics also getting back Shavlik Randolph from the Suns. This comes after Rivers was traded from the Pelicans last week in a separate three-team trade involving the Memphis Grizzlies.
With the Clippers rocking and rolling once again at 26-13 and looking like they’ll be a part of the NBA playoffs, Los Angeles doesn’t need that much help. However, the addition of Rivers is still intriguing on the surface.
After coming into the league amid much fanfare in 2012 from Duke as the No. 10 pick by the Pelicans, it has not gone exactly as planned for the younger Rivers. It’s still early, but many are already labeling him a bust. His numbers don’t paint the rosiest of pictures.
Through roughly two and half years, Rivers is still struggling to find his way. For his career, he is averaging 6.9 points, 2.3 assists and 1.9 rebounds per game while shooting a woeful .390 percent from the field.
We know Doc Rivers is great at teaching guards and he is doing a fantastic job with the Clippers’ backcourt. He, of course, relies on one of the better point guards in the league in Chris Paul. Also doing well under Rivers’ tutelage is J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. In all, the Clippers have one of the finer backcourts in the league and the chemistry they exhibit is a thing to behold.
You have to also remember that Rivers was also very instrumental in making Rajon Rondo one of the better point guards in the league while he was coaching in Boston. So we know Doc Rivers is good with guards.
Now he has the unenviable task of coaching his son. While we see sons playing with their fathers in college, it’s a rare occurrence in the NBA. So, it should be awkward when Rivers has to coach his son. His task will be to be harness Austn’s untapped potential, while slowly working him into the mix for minutes. All this while not trying to offset the rhythm and continuity the Clippers are currently enjoying.
If Austin Rivers were to receive extended minutes, some will cry nepotism. That should not be the case. Doc Rivers is one of the more well-grounded coaches in the league. He is smart, strategic and fair. His handling of his son’s minutes should not become a story.
From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Rivers will become the first son to play for his father when he makes his first appearance with the Clippers. Coby Karl was briefly a member of the Nuggets in 2010 under father George Karl, but Coby did not play for Denver during that stint, which occurred while his father — now an NBA analyst for ESPN — was on leave recovering from throat cancer.
As Clippers president of basketball operations, the elder Rivers had the authority to sign off on acquiring his 22-year-old son.
Asked last week whether he might be inclined to show favoritism toward his son, Doc Rivers said, “I probably show favoritism to Blake [Griffin] and Chris [Paul]. I love my son, but I think I’m going to still favor Blake and Chris and those guys.”
Look, Austin Rivers has talent. We all saw that talent while he was at Duke. The Pelicans also saw it prior to drafting him. You don’t lose that talent. What Austin Rivers needs is some confidence and a chance. It looks like that may finally happen in Los Angeles.
Who better to extract that confidence than a guy he literally grew up with and who initially taught him the game of basketball? Doc Rivers obviously knows all of Austin’s tendencies and knows how he’ll fit in with the team. Maybe he won’t play him all that much this year with the hopes he can learn from the bench and then be ready to contribute fully for the 2015-16 season. After all, Austin is just 22-years old. So, he has plenty of time to blossom into a capable NBA player.
Regardless, this is a compelling story and it will be interesting to see if it his father who gets the best out of Austin Rivers.