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Hornets’ Austin Rivers Is Figuring It Out
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On February 13, 2013 @ 5:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
When Austin Rivers entered the NBA Draft after his freshman year at Duke, he was undoubtedly more famous for being the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers than for his college exploits, but the 6’5 combo guard had done more than enough to get the attention of NBA scouts and the New Orleans Hornets took him with the No. 10 pick in June.
Rivers did not get off to a fast start in New Orleans. As the Hornets stumbled out of the gate and didn’t get their sixth victory until after Christmas, Rivers struggled finding his game and there were even suggestions a stint in the NBA D-league might be appropriate.
“I think it is a mix of things, a mix of emotions. You get so excited, you want to do so well so quickly,” Rivers explained. “Whenever a rookie does get an opportunity, they go, they go instead of just relaxing and just, let’s play. It’s almost impossible. There is no rookie ever who just comes in and figures it out the first game. It takes a certain amount of ups and downs. For me personally, this year there have been a lot of highs and a lot of lows, so you just have to take from both and learn and keep improving.”
There have been a lot more highs recently for Rivers as he has started to grasp how he has to play in order to be successful at the NBA level. While it isn’t a large body of work yet, Rivers has been averaging a dramatically better 48 percent shooting from the field in February and he is demonstrating a much better understanding about how to be effective.
“I can honestly say going into the second half of the season, I have gotten so much better,” Rivers said. “I feel good. My tempo and my pace is way better. Back when the season started, I just went at one speed. I went 100 miles per hour. Every time I got the ball, I tried to go 100 miles per hour and make the play where now I change speeds and read the defense and let the game come to me, go get it or be aggressive, whatever the defense is giving me. I am starting to figure it out a lot more and my mid-range game is starting to improve. Where I used to just shoot threes or attack the basket and finish at the rack, now I am starting to pump fake and make moves in the paint, floaters and mid-range, stuff like that is really coming along. I just have to continue to improve, continue to get that tempo and pace even better.”
It isn’t easy being a rookie in New Orleans. There are no grizzled veterans to pass on their years of experience and mentor the young players. The rookies have to rely on the coaching staff and their own resources to figure things out. If Rivers has taken longer to emerge or seems to being taking steps backwards after every step forward, it shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise.
“Our team is so young that our coaches have become the vets, so from that standpoint, even the young vets that we have are still trying to figure it out,” Hornets head coach Monty Williams said. “For the most part our young core they look to our coaches for leadership. It is just the way the league is now. You got 19 and 20-year-old guys who want answers and sometimes you have to make sure you are around to give them the right stuff.”
“[Learning] is just from experience, watching and just being coached,” Rivers said. “You watch film. Film is the biggest thing in this league. You watch after the game and you look at yourself and you ask, ‘Why am I going 100 miles per hour?’ I am a two/one, so I am playing against Deron Williams and [Russell] Westbrook and all these guys. If you watch the pace they go, they come down slow, change their speeds and let the game come to them. You just look at them and go, ‘I need to play more like that.’ Just from watching film and learning and that’s the best way you can do it.”
Experience can be a great teacher, if the student is willing to accept the lesson. Playing against Kobe Bryant recently had a big impact on how Rivers now views the game. He probably will not be able to implement everything he witnessed, but the lessons learned will certainly take him in the right direction.
“I had the opportunity to guard Kobe in the Lakers game about two weeks ago,” Rivers said. “I was really going at him and being physical and it was a learning experience because you just see greatness. After the game, you just watch him [on film], you see the way he just lets things come to him. He can go two miles per hour and score as many points as he wants from his footwork and the way he approaches it. In his mind he feels he is better than everybody, so it is pretty cool.”
Rivers is playing better since January and his team’s wins have been a little more frequent. The combination has improved the rookie’s prospects and his personal outlook on the season.
“It’s been a lot better just because you enjoy it,” Rivers said. “No matter how unselfish you are, basketball is always fun when you play better, it’s just human nature and it’s unbelievable when you play well and you win. Now that I am trying to play better and better, you just look forward to each practice, each game, each shoot-around. It’s a new opportunity, it’s a new day. That’s how you have to approach it. When things start to get rolling, you just have to continue on that path and not get caught up in, ‘I am playing well, so I can relax.’ You just have to keep moving forward because there is so much I can learn to get better at and that makes me excited to wake up every morning knowing there is a million things I can learn today and that’s how I have to approach every day.”
The 20-year-old guard is starting to figure things out and has started to enjoy some success recently. He even helped the Hornets beat his father’s team in Boston 90-78 in January with a 3-6 shooting performance and eight points, although Doc Rivers is at little risk of becoming less famous than his son for the foreseeable future. It was a rough start, but the rookie Rivers is on the right path and he has a very good idea about how he is going to stay on it.
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