Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE
This was supposed to be a cool moment in their lives. But something happened along the way.
Doc Rivers is a proud papa and he has every reason to be. His son is in the NBA. Any father would be proud of that accomplishment. The fact that he's in the same NBA that Doc has made two careers out of (playing and coaching) is just icing on the cake. They talked wistfully about being able to compete against each other. They thought it would be "real cool." Now, maybe not so much.
First of all, Doc seems very conflicted - which is understandable.
Reality has hit Doc like a ton of bricks. He is recognizing the fact that must finally look at Austin as an opponent, and he doesn’t seem particularly fond of that task. "I’m actually not," Doc said on Tuesday after being asked if he is looking forward to Wednesday’s game. "I don’t even know what I’m looking forward to. It’s not like he’s playing a ton anyway, but you never know. As far as him and being on the floor, that’s just a different feeling. I still don’t know how to feel about it."
That last comment seems to be very true based on Doc’s demeanor on Tuesday. He went back and forth between talking about Austin as an opponent and Austin as a son. He wants the Celtics to win the game, but he doesn’t want to watch Austin struggle. Doc seemed to be confused and conflicted about how he is supposed to feel as he ran through those scenarios in his head.
That has to be rough. What is even harder has to be watching his son struggle the way he has this season. How bad has it gotten? Well, early in the season he was having historically bad numbers. This was back in December:
Rivers has produced -21.9 points per 100 possessions below league average. In the modern era, only three rookie guards that exceeded 50 games performed worse -- Junior Harrington at -22 in 2003, Walker Russell at -23 in 1983, and Orien Green at -23 in 2006. Two of those players never made it past their rookie contracts in the NBA while Russell hung on till year 5 before bowing out. Rivers has a 39.2% true shooting rate, which would be the worst rookie mark for a guard (50+ games) of all time. His 34.9% effective field goal rate would be the third worst of all time. I'm not a big fan of PER, but his 5.8 mark would also be the third worst by a rookie guard ever. Austin Rivers has been terrible, and not in a "oh, all rookies are going to struggle, guys" sort of way. He's been historically awful.
Since then,... well, things haven't gotten any better.
Coming from one of Austin Rivers most ardent supporters, it doesn't bring me great pleasure admitting this, but it's time the Hornets designate him for assignment with the Iowa Energy in the NBA D-League. Although Austin has yet to set the NBA on fire, his play of late has easily been worst of his young career. For the month of January, he is averaging 1.3 points, 1.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists. Sure, he's only averaged around 13 minutes during this time frame, but he is shooting 13% from the floor, 20% from beyond the arc and 16.7% from the line! It's obvious to all observers that any confidence he may have had at an earlier point in the season is buried, dead and done.
We're talking about a team that has 11 wins. They are clearly in rebuilding mode and they can afford to play all the rookies all the minutes that they want. That's a rough year right there.
I feel for Doc. I suppose there are worse fates than to see your son become a millionaire, but he's a struggling millionaire and Doc has seen up close how empty that money can be to guys that can't realize their dream of succeeding and living up to the expectations that the money comes with. He doesn't want to see that happen to his son - yet at least for one game he has to make sure his team takes advantage of all his faults if at all possible. I'd be conflicted too.
But it is just another step in the young man's growth and he was going to have to face it sooner or later. Same goes for the elder Rivers.