When Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers called his son Austin and asked if he wanted to play for him, the younger Rivers said he needed time to think about it and make a phone call.
“The first thing I did was call my mom,” Austin Rivers said. “She’s going to have to deal with this. She was a wreck the first night. She was calling me, ‘What if this happens and what if that happens?’ I was like, ‘Mom, it’s not on anybody but me and him.’ At the end of the day, my job is to play and compete and that’s it. It’s not like in the last second of the game I’m going to have the ball in my hands. I know my role here. I know Chris [Paul] and Blake [Griffin] are the leaders.”
It was never Austin’s dream to play for his dad, and it was never Doc’s dream to coach his son. In fact, both of them have been on the record in the past saying they would like to stay in their separate lanes. But when Austin became available at the same time the Clippers were looking for a defensive-minded guard to help spark the second unit, Doc and particularly those around him couldn’t ignore the opportunity, regardless of the unique circumstances.
“The group around me, our coaches, [general manager] Dave Wohl and [vice president of basketball operations] Kevin Eastman said he fits our team,” Doc said. “For me I was like, ‘I don’t know,’ but at the end of the day my job is to do what I think is best for the team, not what’s best for me or what’s comfortable for me. We felt like this was. That probably swayed me more than the father part swayed me, I can tell you that. I was probably on the other way that way, but as far as an executive I had to think of it in those terms, and it made sense for us.”
Doc still had to discuss the deal with Austin — who had been traded from New Orleans to Boston in a three-team deal last week — and see if he was willing to play for his father.
“He’s always done his thing and I’ve done mine, and to be honest I never thought something like this would happen,” Austin said. “He called me up and asked me, ‘Is this something you might be interested in because we need you.’ When I heard that it was one of those things I had to think. I had to take a day to myself and think could this work, and it does.”
Rivers came into the game without any practice, having spent the last four days in New Orleans waiting for the trade to be finalized.
A father had never coached his son in an NBA game before Friday, until Austin made his Clippers debut in the first quarter of Friday night’s 126-121 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He shot 0-for-4 from the field and 0-for-2 from 3-point range with one assist and one turnover in 12 minutes of action.
“I was thinking too much,” he said afterward. “I was trying to be perfect and please everybody.”
And while it would appear to be difficult waters to navigate for any parent and a child, Austin said before the game that his relationship with his father makes it easier than most.
Austin was raised in Orlando, Florida, went to Duke, and was drafted by New Orleans while Doc coached the Boston Celtics from 2004 to ’13.
“The relationship I have with him is already basketball-oriented,” Austin said. “He was in Boston and I grew up in Orlando. It’s not so much like father-son, it’s coach-player. Off the court, we deal with that a different way.”
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