Austin Rivers in potentially his final game of the season (Getty Images)
This Austin Rivers injury is one sad situation. He didn’t tear up a knee, he’s not ill and he should be fine in time to add to his game during the offseason, but he’ll also be on the shelf for four to six weeks after breaking his shooting hand in a New Orleans Hornets loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. If you haven’t been paying close attention to the Hornets of late, something we wouldn’t blame you for, you may have missed Rivers’ recent relative turnaround – the guy has actually been playing pretty well of late.
It was a warming comeback, because for the first few months of his rookie season Austin Rivers was playing some historically bad basketball. Not even in terms relative to his status as the tenth overall pick in last June’s NBA draft. We’re talking, “as bad as any rotation player in modern history”-bad. And yet Doc Rivers’ son still managed to put together a pretty significant streak in three games during March – averaging 8.7 points per game in 20 minutes a contest, hitting 12 of 17 shots. Not boffo numbers, to be sure, but far higher than the 35.6 percent from the field mark that he entered March with.
And then, in his best week as a pro, one bang (Rivers collided with teammate Greivis Vasquez) likely ends his rookie campaign. Rivers, tweeting with one hand, offered this following the diagnosis (via USA Today):
Just when I started to get rollin in this league! Smh... God works in Mysterious ways, this is a test he's putting me through to get better.
— Austin Rivers (@AustinRivers25) March 7, 2013
“SMH,” indeed. And with the four to six-week timetable (New Orleans’ final game is exactly six weeks from the night Rivers broke his hand), it’s perfectly acceptable to push the chair back and discuss Austin’s trying first year as a pro.
He looks like a pro, you know. Even if you’re unaware that Austin Rivers is the son of a one-time NBA All-Star, one that had a distinguished and much-admired career, Rivers’ lithe frame and ability to pull-up for those oft-missed jumpers looks like someone who should be NBA-ready. He tilts way too much on those jumpers, but at 6-4 and with obvious hybrid guard flourishes Rivers passes all the NBA eye tests.
Except for the fact, unfortunately, he didn’t do anything NBA-worthy for most of the season. Austin is at 6.2 points and 2.1 assists per game in over 23 minutes a contest, shooting 37 and 32 percent respectfully from the field and behind the three-point line. His rebounding is poor even by guard standards, he rarely got to the line (always an unfortunate hallmark of lacking athleticism) and shot just 57 percent when he did earn a trip to the stripe, and his defense was, um, not much-admired.
Again, a rookie – one that won’t even be able to legally buy a delicious manhattan down on Bourbon Street until this August. With that in place, though, even by rookie standards Rivers’ production was worrying. Unfortunately resembling Adam Morrison’s rookie season (per minute and shooting) stats from 2006-07.
Morrison actually outplayed Rivers that season, truth be told, with the hopeful caveat that Rivers is two years younger than Adam was during his rookie campaign. A summer of work could do the eventual 21-year old some good as he enters 2013-14; but quite a lot has to change. Like, shots going in.
We’re hopeful, though. We kind of like NBA basketball, so we’re kind of rooting for guys that at the very least look like they can play NBA basketball. Especially the kind Austin Rivers played in March of 2013.
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