Los Angeles Clippers reserve Austin Rivers has always received a steady torrent of hate from NBA fans, but after a gritty performance in Game 6 against the Portland Trail Blazers, Rivers is now exempt from all slander.
Yes you read that correctly.
Rivers had to receive 11 stitches around his right-eye after being thumped in the face by an inadvertent elbow from Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu midway through the first quarter of Friday night’s season-ending 106-103 loss, but he returned to the game to drop 21 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and remarkably zero turnovers despite having his vision impaired due to the laceration.
…That looks awful. https://t.co/JKofaGRWRV
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) April 30, 2016
My reverence for Rivers now runs much deeper than it ever did before because instead of heightening the Clippers’ depletion issues by sitting out the remainder of the game, he elected to come back and aid his comrades in an uphill battle against Portland as their on-court generals Chris Paul and Blake Griffin gazed upon the action from a television as they both sustained series-ending injuries in Game 4.
If Rivers had decided to become a spectator for the remainder of the game, nobody would’ve griped. Majority of folks that had that type of pain inflicted on them wouldn’t have the cojones to trek back out on the floor. The guy was basically playing a playoff basketball game with one freaking eye and he proved to be a key component in the Clippers’ valiant fight even though most knew what the end result would be.
He sorta became Los Angeles’ de-facto leader with their season hanging in the balance, and for now all of the ridicule that’s usually hurled in his direction will cease, instead swapped for praise and admiration.
No longer will the perception of Rivers just be “the coach’s son,” and this performance is what may permanently shoo away that notion. Upon his arrival in Los Angeles in January of 2015, Rivers was pegged as a pompous youngster who was to be spoon-fed playing time because of whom his dad was.
Over the last two postseason’s yes he’s had his blunders, but he’s proven he’s a capable NBA talent that can hold his own. If there were still naysayers regarding this stance, last night is simply validation.
This couldn’t come at a better time for Rivers, as he revealed some surprising information about the status of he and his father, Doc Rivers, relationship earlier this week.
When Doc, in need of a backup point guard, traded for Austin midway through last season, it was easy to point to nepotism, but the truth is Austin and Doc have never really had a true father-and-son relationship. While Doc was coaching the Boston Celtics from 2004 to 2013, Austin was growing up in Winter Park, Florida, going to Duke and getting drafted by New Orleans. The two of them have probably spent more time together over the past year and half than Austin can remember. The closest they ever actually got to having a father-son relationship was when they would visit Bettye together.
“He doesn’t really share his life outside of basketball with me,” Austin said. “He and I don’t know each other like that. We know each other as strictly basketball. A lot of people on the outside don’t understand that because people think we have a relationship like every other father and son. We just don’t. That’s because he’s been gone my whole life, and that’s fine.
“It’s worked out for the both of us. But the one person he could always really be with was his mom. That’s the toughest thing I’ve ever seen him go through; more than the Sterling stuff and even when his dad passed away. His mom was everything to him. I’ve never seen him like that.”
When viewed through the lens of the media, Austin and Doc’s relationship seems to be one permeated with vigor, but obviously that is not the case. Basketball, its rigorous schedule and the demands of the Association pried Doc away from Austin, as his dad has been playing, commentating and coaching since 1983.
We tend to fasten unfair connotations on to certain players based on how we think things seem, and sometime those insinuations are way off. Austin Rivers and Doc Rivers are a perfect exemplification of this.
He’s been berated since stepping foot in the NBA, but a cascade of criticism should no longer pour down upon Rivers. He’s proved that he’s his own man and that his success doesn’t hinge on his father’s status as the coach. What Rivers did earned him respect from only fans, but his cohorts as well.
This was a real eye-opener (no pun intended I promise), for the entire basketball universe. Austin Rivers should no longer be maligned.
After the loss Rivers was visibly upset when speaking to the media and he even talked about being doubted and how he could always retreat to veteran 6th man Jamal Crawford for assistance when the going got tough.
These are the moments that make sports special. I want to dodge sounding cliche but oh what the hell, Rivers played with heart baby!
If I were Austin Rivers I’d be reciting the words of the illustrious Birdman, “Yaw better put some respek on my name!”
Bravo Austin. Thank you for an inspiring performance.