NBA Saturday: Austin Rivers Groomed By The Best
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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Rivers Shines in Chicago: For a lot of players the NBA Draft Combine is an overwhelming experience. Every NBA team is in attendance. A poor showing during the workout portion of the combine can take away from everything they did in college. And the interview process is much more like an interrogation than standard interview.
Nobody in this year’s draft class was better prepared to handle it all than Duke guard Austin Rivers. Son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Austin has been groomed for this moment for years and it showed.
“He helped a lot,” Austin said to HOOPSWORLD of his father. “Him, Coach K, those are the guys I went with for advice. They’ve been here, done that before, done it themselves. They’ve had many guys who have gone through this process. I use them as a source to help me, they helped me a lot.
“They said just to stay hungry and humble, understand this is a blessing to be here. Not take anything for granted. Just to go out, work hard and show teams who you are truly, don’t try to be something you’re not. Be real. If they choose you that means that’s the right fit for you. That’s the advice he gave me and I’m going to take it to heart, go out there, be a great person and play hard.”
Rivers had a solid freshman year at Duke, averaging 15.4 points per game along with three rebounds and two assists. He measured in at 6’5 with shoes, alleviating concerns about his size. 6’5 is a solid height for a shooting guard, but Rivers doesn’t see himself as just that.
“I think I can be both (point guard and shooting guard) to tell you the truth,” Rivers said. “I think I have the ball handling ability to be a point guard and help a team especially if I play with another guard who can score. I can play the point guard or if he wants to bring up the ball I can play shooting guard. We can both bring up the ball to help each other out. Kind of like Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, those guys who are aggressive point guards, that’s why I’m trying to be.
“Obviously things change when you make it to the big leagues but your game doesn’t too much as far as who you are as a player. I think teams that draft me draft me for a reason: the way I’ve played in the past. I’ll learn new things and I will get better and my game will change and evolve. But, I’ll still remain an aggressive player who looks to make plays for other players, score and be active on defense. I’m a very competitive player who wants to do everything he can to help his team win immediately. What I’m trying to do this year is have the biggest impact for an NBA team right away. That’s what I’m focused on right now.”
There’s been no shortage of interest in Rivers so far as teams ranging from the early lottery to the high teens have inquired about interviews and workouts. He spoke about the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Hornets specifically.
“The Warriors are a great organization,” Rivers said. “I love Mark Jackson. I think he’s a great coach, up and coming coach. I think they have a great organization. I’m pretty good friends with Stephen Curry, he’s a great guy, great player. They also have Klay Thompson and other pieces already, so to be in that situation would be pretty cool too.
“Monty Williams is a great guy, great coach. I’ve been blessed to know him over my life. I had a great workout with him last week in New Orleans where I felt things went great. They have a great organization with a great GM. They’re a team that’s on the rise especially with the number one pick and probably Anthony Davis.”
Whoever ends up drafting Rivers is getting a player who is mature well beyond his years. It’s evident that he’s been surrounded by great basketball minds from an early stage in his life. It’s not often that you see incoming rookies with an approach like his.
“At the end of the day basketball is something I’ve been playing my whole life,” Rivers said. “It’s a game that I’ve been playing. I have fun, I love it. In situations that people take too seriously, I take it very seriously but I understand there’s always tomorrow and that I can always get better and learn from my mistakes. I haven’t been perfect in my career. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. You take the downs, learn from them, flush them and move forward. That’s something I try to do.”
Move Over Morway: Sources close to the situation confirmed Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski’s report that Kevin Pritchard, the Indiana Pacers director of player personnel, has positioned himself to become the new general manager. The promotion is contingent on Larry Bird staying on as team president.
Pritchard and Bird’s relationship dates back to their playing days. Pritchard played with the Boston Celtics for a short stint during Bird’s final season in 1991-1992.
They teamed back up last year as Bird brought Pritchard in to work with Morway, a former player agent who never formed the same type of bond with Bird. It was very clear almost instantly that Pritchard had no interest in trying to work with Morway.
Despite Morway’s best efforts to work together cohesively, Pritchard consistently went behind his back to Bird and owner Herb Simon in attempts to cut him out of the picture according to sources. Pritchard was the catalyst behind the George Hill and Leandro Barbosa trades.
With Bird almost set to sign an extension, Pritchard is on the verge of having his master plan complete.
While Morway is getting the short end of the stick in this situation, his work in Indiana speaks for itself. The moves he made prior to Pritchard’s arrival were far more instrumental in their rise to prominence this year than the ones his future successor made. Morway was in the mix to get the Portland Trail Blazers GM job before they hired Neil Olshey and will undoubtedly land on his feet.
Meanwhile, the Pacers will be trusting Pritchard to guide them in the right direction in one of the most important summers in franchise history. The team is coming off of a strong showing in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. They have enough cap space to be major players in free agency, but All-Star center Roy Hibbert is going to be a restricted free agent. Hill and Barbosa will be unrestricted free agents as well.
Pritchard’s three-year tenure in Portland was marred by bad luck with injuries. He put together a promising core in Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden. Unfortunately, their potential was never realized. Roy’s injury woes forced him into early retirement last year and Oden played in just 82 games over four years with the team.
The NBA is often described as a cutthroat business both on and off the court. The situation in Indiana couldn’t exemplify that any more perfectly. Morway has taken the Pacers from the lottery to the upper echelon in the Eastern Conference, only to see Pritchard potentially finish what he started. This summer will determine whether or not the Pacers continue their ascent. The pressure is on Pritchard to prove that he truly is the best man for the job and not just someone who used a personal relationship to leverage his way into a position undeservingly.
Meet Jae Crowder: Marquette forward Jae Crowder is one of the sleepers of the 2012 NBA Draft. He’s quite possibly the premier defender in the class with an underrated offensive skill set. He was climbing up the draft boards prior to a New Jersey workout where there were reports that he measured in at 6’3 without shoes. That turned out not to be the case as he’s actually 6’4.75” without shoes and 6’6.5” in them. While at the combine he took time to talk about that false information and more:
NBA Chats: Susan Bible will be hosting her weekly chat today at 11 am EST. Susan covers the Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder and will be at the NBA Finals. You can get your questions into her here.