Austin Rivers Struggling As Matchup With Father Looms
NEW YORK — Austin Rivers will face his father, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, in an NBA game for the first time Wednesday night, but he’s hardly going into the matchup feeling confident about himself.
Entering Tuesday’s New Orleans Hornets game at Philadelphia, the 6-foot-4 former Duke star has gone scoreless in four straight games.
In Sunday’s 100-87 loss to the Knicks, Rivers didn’t even attempt a single shot. He went scoreless and played less than four minutes.
“I think this is my fourth game in row I haven’t scored,” a dejected Rivers told SNY.tv in the visitors’ locker room at Madison Square Garden. “I didn’t even shoot a shot [Sunday]. You know what I mean?
In Tuesday’s 111-99 win at Philadelphia, Rivers went 0-for-1 with one point.
The No. 10 pick in June’s NBA Draft, Rivers is averaging 6.4 points and 2.1 assists in his rookie season, a far cry from the 15.5 points he averaged last season at Duke or the 29.2 points he averaged as a senior at Winter Park (Fla.) High School when he was named the Naismith High School Player of the Year in 2011.
“It is frustrating,” Rivers told SNY.tv. “It’s a lot more because I’ve done well this year, so it’s just like I know I can do it. Now people [on the Hornets] are back, everybody’s healthy, so my leeway is really tiny. So I just gotta go out there and just keep playing. It’s just tough.”
Rivers has started 22 of 36 games for the Hornets, with his season-high of 27 points coming Dec. 14 in a loss to Minnesota. But he hasn’t reached double-figure scoring in a game since a Dec. 28 loss to Toronto.
“I gotta go out there and be aggressive,” he said. “That way when you earn more time, you get more plays. When you get more plays, you get more rebounds and stops and you talk more and you be more of a leader. And that all starts with just playing hard. And you gotta just start that I guess in practice, that’s where I gotta do it. And just earn my way back to the point where I’m playing more.”
So far this year, 25 members of the 2012 NBA Draft class have been assigned to the NBA D-League, including former Kentucky standout Darius Miller of the Hornets, as well as younger players like Jeremy Lamb (Oklahoma City Thunder), Kendall Marshall (Phoenix Suns), Terrence Jones (Houston Rockets) and Doron Lamb (Milwaukee Bucks).
Rivers said he doesn’t think he or those younger players came out of college too early because they had to take the opportunity to play in the NBA when it came.
“A lot of times, guys are in tough situations,” Rivers said. “You look at players like Doron Lamb and any of those guys, they’re in a situation where if they stay one more year, it might hurt them. And that’s just the way it works. Unfortunately, that is the way it works.”
Asked if he felt that way, Rivers said: “No, I felt like, no offense, with the team that they have this year [at Duke] I probably could’ve went higher [this year]. But I wasn’t really worried about if I was the 10th or fifth pick, my whole thing was, I have an opportunity ahead of me and this is my dream and I want to get here. And the sooner I get here, the better I’ll get. And that’s what my whole thing is, and I have.”
Hornets coach Monty Williams, whose team also features Anthony Davis, the No. 1 pick in the draft, understands things can be rough for rookies.
“I think that’s what you’re going to deal with the younger guys and I totally understand it,” Williams told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. ”You’re going to have those ups and downs.”
Rivers hopes the downs go away in the next couple of days. That date with his father is looming on Wednesday in Boston.
“He’s know my game better than anyone else in this league,” Austin said. “He knows my tendencies, not all of them.
“I got a couple tricks up my sleeve that I don’t share with my pop. But at the end of the day those guys don’t (know). Even though he knows everything he can’t share every thought he has about my game. Just like I watched Paul Pierce every game, it doesn’t mean I can stop him.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.