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Forget Austin... Summer League More Important to Jeremiah Rivers

The other Rivers NBA hopeful.
The other Rivers NBA hopeful.

Austin Rivers will make his NBA summer league debut in Las Vegas on Sunday, but his performance in it isn't nearly as important to his future as his brother's is to his.

Like his younger brother Austin, Jeremiah Rivers is trying to make a mark in the NBA, too. But first, he has to make a mark on an NBA team.

Rivers is on the Knicks' summer league team over the next week, with hopes to play well enough to earn a spot on the team's training camp roster. It's baby steps for Rivers, who played his first real game of basketball since undergoing double ankle surgery in February.

"For me, I just want to show the team I can help them win," Rivers said Saturday afternoon after the Knicks' 93-77 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. "Obviously unfortunately we're just getting our feet wet, but my defensive tenacity, my [ability to] play-make for others, rebounding. I have a lot of intangibles, you know?"

Rivers had a chance to play summer league ball on numerous other teams -- including the Celtics. He turned down Boston at the time, saying, "Honestly I'm just coming off ankle surgery, man, and that was about a week-and-a-half ago. I wasn't ready, man. This is the first basketball I've played in six months."

His assessment of his first game? "I thought I did OK," he said. "Early I was OK, kind of picked it up in the second half, got to the basket. I need to be a little more aggressive offensively; I think I can get around anybody."

Rivers finished with six points, five rebounds, two steals, and two turnovers in roughly 25 minutes.

Before ankle surgery, he was playing in Serbia, an experience he says helped him grow.

"It's an opportunity of a lifetime to play in Europe," Rivers said. "How many people can say they went overseas and played in a third world county, a completely different country? Meet new people. It's good for me as a man and for my culture.

"You grow as a man. You're by yourself. I didn't have any American teammates. I was by myself. You have to learn to stay hungry every day.

Chances are, Austin will never have to grind it out in a place like Serbia. But you won't find even a hint of jealousy over that with Jeremiah, who has nothing but great things to say about him.

"Oh he's doing it big, man," Jeremiah said of Austin. He's a baller. I ain't even worried about him. He's going to kill. It don't matter.

The idea that Austin has an easier path to NBA success doesn't put any pressure on Jeremiah.

"No pressure. This is fun for me. What my brother does, I've got nothing but support and love for him. I'm his biggest supporter, man. I tell everybody how great he is. Y'all going to see this year, he's going to kill. So for me, it's not like I have any pressure. It's basketball."

There may not be added pressure, but the next week of basketball is important for the Rivers brother who is looking for a contract of his own.

"My importance is to try to get by to training camp," Rivers said. "So for me it's kill at what I do good. Play defense, make plays, get to the basket, hit free throws, defend, rebound, that's what I do."

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