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Celtics players and staff have long thought Austin Rivers had NBA talent.WALTHAM, Mass. -- Though Austin Rivers has had his fair share of ups and downs during his rookie season with the New Orleans Hornets, his father, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, along with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and Paul Pierce, saw his NBA potential from a young age.
Rivers said before practice Tuesday that he had his own inkling that his son had the chance to make it to the league one day, but that it was Ainge who first mentioned it, well before the younger Rivers was dominating the high school circuit in Orlando, Florida and drawing interest from high-profile Division-1 college programs.
"You know, I thought he [had a chance]," Rivers said. "The guy that I give credit to is Danny Ainge. I've said this before -- my first year here , I think Austin was, whatever, do the math, he was in grade school and he was out shooting and Danny came and grabbed me and said, 'That's the guy.' I was like, 'What guy?' because our guys were on the floor. And he was like, 'Your son.' And at that time I'm a father, so I don't see anything. And Danny reminds me of that quite a bit. As he would."
Rivers might have seen something just a few short years later, when his son started defeating him in games of one-on-one. While Rivers held the throne on the family court for a long time, Austin finally flipped the script when he was a freshman in high school.
"He beat me bad," Rivers said of the first time he lost to his son. "I remember beating him and then we had the one game. I want to say it was 10-0 or 10-1. I got the ball once. He beat me and then I played him one more time because I thought it was a fluke and he got me again. That was it."
The younger Rivers was measuring up his talent against current NBA players not long after, including Pierce, who he took on when he was a sophomore in high school. So, did Pierce win?
"Barely," Pierce said, before hastily adding: "I took him lightly, that's why. I took him lightly."
But over the course of that game, it became clear to Pierce that he was going toe-to-toe with a future NBA player.
"I mean I knew he would be an NBA player," Pierce said. "We played one-on-one when he was like in 10th grade and I think I went upstairs and told Doc, 'You've got an NBA player right here,' and I knew from then he would be able to make it to the NBA, truthfully. That's a true story."
"I knew he had a lot of confidence. I knew how hard he worked," Pierce added. "I saw his potential, his upside, and you just saw the things that you see in current NBA players. You saw that he had a lot of that in him."
Perhaps "barely" beating Pierce brought out an extra swagger in Rivers that the Celtics captain made note of, as he smiled when asked if he'd be taking it easy on Rivers when their teams meet on Wednesday.
"No, no, no," Pierce said. "He was out to get me when he was a high school player, so I'm ready for him."