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He admitted before Tuesday's practice that for a father, there's no greater reality than seeing a child reach one of his/her dreams, which is what his son accomplished when he was selected 10th overall by the Hornets in last June's draft. But Wednesday will see a clash in realities, as the younger Rivers' rookie campaign stops in Boston for a showdown with his father on the opposite sideline.
You might assume the elder Rivers would be ecstatic over the scenario, but truthfully, he's conflicted. Torn between being the coach of his own team and the father of one of his team's opponents, Rivers will enter Wednesday's game a bit uncomfortable with the cards lined up the way they are.
|Austin Rivers has had some growing pains with the Hornets. A "typical rookie year," says his father, Doc Rivers.|
"I'm actually not [looking forward to it]," said Rivers. "I mean, I don't even know what I'm looking forward to. You know, it's not like he's playing a ton anyway, but, you never know. But, as far as him and being out on the floor, that's just a different feeling. I still don't know how to feel about it.
"I've always thought he had a shot of being in the league, but I never thought about coaching against him. You don't ever think about that part. Then when he gets drafted you think, 'Wow, I'm going to go up against my son.' Not literally, I'll be in a suit and tie, so I can't do anything. But, again, it's just something -- I'll be glad when the game's over. I can put it that way."
The younger Rivers has suffered through his fair share of rookie growing pains this season, something his father referred to as having a "typical rookie year." While he has exhibited flashes of the quickness and overall scoring ability that helped him get drafted so high, he has also shown some steady inconsistencies. Over his past five games, Rivers has scored a total of just one point. And in the Hornets' past two contests, he has seen just nine minutes of total floor time.
"He's just up and down," Rivers said of his son. "You can see offensively he's not as aggressive as he should be, as he was. And that's typical rookie year. You can see he's playing in thought. It's almost like our team early in the year where I kept saying, 'We can't be athletic until we stop thinking so much,' and that's where he's at right now. He started out struggling and then he went on a nice run and now he's struggling again. He's having a rookie year."
But Wednesday could see the younger Rivers thrust into a greater light, given the scenario. If he does see more action against the Celtics than he has in recent outings, though, don't expect him to receive any handouts. When asked if anything would come easy for the younger Rivers on Wednesday, his father, Paul Pierce and Jeff Green all had the same response: no way.
"I don't care if he's Doc's kid," Green said before practice Tuesday.
"He going to get mad at me? I mean, he wants us to stop him, right? So I mean, if he comes through the lane, I'm going to hit him. That's how it goes. Welcome to the NBA, kid."
Echoed Pierce: "He was out to get me when he was a high school player, so I'm ready for him."
As for Rivers, the worst punishment he can administer to his son on Wednesday might be unleashing Avery Bradley on him. Which, of course, he's fully prepared to do.
"Oh, absolutely," Rivers said of Bradley seeing time on his son. "There's no doubt about that."
He's still your son. He's going to be my son during the game, after the game, before the game. None of that's going to change, you know? But tomorrow we'll probably not talk about our game plan or their game plan.” -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers
Father-son crossovers have been a rarity in the NBA, with two of the more recent examples being former Los Angeles Clippers head coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. and current Milwaukee Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy Jr., along with Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl and former Los Angeles Laker Coby Karl.
Rivers said he has spoken to both Dunleavy and Karl about the matter in passing, with Karl sharing Rivers' feelings of discomfort.
Wednesday will be a first for Rivers. He has close relationships with all of his children, and he's used to having the freedom to cheer them on. The support for Austin, in particular, rose to a public stage when he was playing for Duke University during the 2011-12 season. It wasn't uncommon to see the elder Rivers in attendance at Cameron Indoor Stadium or at one of the many road venues.
But with them both now in the NBA and working on conflicting schedules, Rivers acknowledged that it's difficult to show his support in person.
"The only drawback of him being in the NBA, I haven't been to a game, and I miss that a little bit, to be honest," said Rivers. "But, other than that, it's just, it's really cool."
Rivers said he speaks with Austin on a daily basis -- about both basketball and life in general -- but ultimately leaves the coaching to Hornets head coach Monty Williams, who's actually a longtime friend of the Rivers family.
"I just tell [Austin] to stay aggressive, keep playing his game, keep listening and learning," Rivers said. "But I'm more of his parent.
"When he's doing well, I try to knock him down; when he's struggling, I just try to boost him up. I don't coach him. I don't see him every day, so I don't think I'm qualified to coach him."
Though his son might be considered an opponent for 48 minutes on Wednesday, Rivers said the family bond still trumps all other labels.
"He's still your son. He's going to be my son during the game, after the game, before the game. None of that's going to change, you know? But tomorrow we'll probably not talk about our game plan or their game plan. I guarantee you I won't do that."
Several members of the Rivers family are expected to be in attendance on Wednesday, and Rivers said they'll be Austin fans first and Celtics fans second. Rivers' wife, Kristen, will be among those in the stands, and you can be sure she'll be keeping a keen eye on how her son is being treated. Asked if his son or his wife would take more offense to the Celtics administering a hard foul, Rivers didn't hesitate to answer.
"Oh, Kris Rivers, there's no doubt. There's no doubt," Rivers said.
"If [Austin] gets fouled hard and let's say I had nothing to do with it, which I usually don't because I'm not playing, there'll be no dinner."