My first game to see New Orleans Hornets rookie point guard Austin Rivers play was ironically against the Utah Jazz, the team that was once known as the New Orleans Jazz. The Jazz logo, as my friend pointed out, looks just like the same one it had when it was located in New Orleans. While the Hornets name was retained when the team was brought here from Charlotte, N.C., the Hornets may soon be going through a name change itself. Logos and team names aside, what I really came to the New Orleans Arena to do was to watch Austin Rivers, who has taken the rookie spotlight off the then-injured Anthony Davis, the top NBA 2012 draft pick. Rivers was also drafted in ’12, the number 10 pick, as a freshman at Duke University.
From the later years of high school on, the sports press has watched both Davis and Rivers intently, with comparisons often made (though they play different positions). As teammates they will have to combine their strengths. But for now, with Davis having been injured, Rivers has, not so quietly, stolen the spotlight. That can be a mixed blessing in sports, because your good games are sometimes reported as afterthoughts, while your not-so-spectacular games and injuries are minutely evaluated by sports journalists and the man on the bar stool watching the game. According to reports, it’s been a bumpy ride for Rivers – most journalists say he’s having a hard time adjusting to the pace of the NBA – but the night I saw him play, I saw none of that. In fact, I was impressed on how fast he was – dare I say faster than Chris Paul – and probably had one of the most intent faces out on the court.
It isn’t surprising, however, that Rivers excels at the game, because his father is none other than “Doc” Rivers, the coach of the Boston Celtics, himself once a point guard. Basketball fanboys can only imagine the one-on-one games those two may have had growing up.
And, we may be able to see an interesting family competition soon: The team will be playing the Boston Celtics on Jan. 16 (in Boston) and March 20 (in New Orleans).
But in the meantime, Hornets fans will have an interesting ride watching Rivers grow as a player.
What was the first New Orleans experience that you had when you arrived here? Bourbon Street.
What’s your favorite thing about New Orleans? Everybody is in a good mood.
What do you bring to the team as a Hornets player? My playmaking ability.
What has been the biggest adjustment from playing in college to the NBA? The tempo.
What is your most important asset as a shooting guard and point guard? Always stay confident and believe in your teammates and yourself.
Who are the other shooting and point guards that you look up to? Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat), Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets), Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) and Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls).
Who is the toughest team that you have played against as a Hornet? The Milwaukee Bucks; their defense is pretty good.
Who has been the toughest player to play against? Ben Gordon (Charlotte Bobcats).
Any team in particular that you’re excited to play this season? Everybody really, though all the prime-time games have a little more excitement.
The Hornets are playing the Celtics in January. Is there anything that you’ve thought about playing against the team your father coaches? No. I mean it’s obviously different cause my dad coaches the team, so it will be a better enjoyment I’d say, if you win. Cause, you know, then you get that edge over your father. But it’s really nothing – he’s not playing, he’s coaching, so I’m really not going against him.
You have your father’s number, No. 25. Is it a tribute to him? It’s a family number. Everyone has worn it.
You and your siblings are a family of athletes. What are their sports? My sister played volleyball for University of Florida, then professionally in Mexico. She no longer plays. My older brother plays for the NBA D-league Maine Red Claws and my little brother plays for the same team I did, Winter Park High School in Florida.
You were drafted during college like your father was. Do you plan to go back to get your degree, like he did? Yes, I’m planning to go back.
At a Glance
Profession: Point Guard for the New Orleans Hornets Age: 20 Education: Winter Park High School (Florida); attended Duke University Family: Father, “Doc” Rivers (Coach of the Boston Celtics); mother, Kristen Rivers; brothers Jeremiah and Spencer; sister, Callie. Favorite book: The Hunger Games Favorite movie: The Shawshank Redemption Favorite TV show: “Dexter.” Favorite music: Hip-hop Favorite food: Seafood Favorite New Orleans restaurant: Emeril’s Favorite vacation spot: Hawaii