CHICAGO – Doc Rivers has guided the Boston Celtics to the brink of a third trip in five years to the NBA Finals. With the Celtics now facing a seventh and deciding game against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, their coach has been busy with game preparation, practices, travel and media obligations. Rivers has, however, found some time in his schedule for one other important duty: advising his son Austin, who is preparing for the NBA draft.
“It’s tough because his schedule right now is crazy and so is mine,” Austin Rivers said. “I’m just trying to take things step by step and so is he. He keeps up with everything I do. He talks about everything with me. Every workout I go to, he is calling me to make sure everything is all right. He always says, 'Make sure you do this,' or, 'Make sure you do that.'
"He’s still a dad at the end of the day. Even though he’s a coach and his job is crazy, he’s still always there."
Austin Rivers' talent has given him his own hoop identity outside of his father. He became the third freshman to ever lead Duke in scoring this past season when he was named the ACC's Freshman of the Year. He also earned a spot in Duke-North Carolina rivalry lore by making a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in a victory at Chapel Hill, N.C.
"He’s a confident and aggressive scorer with no conscience when it comes to scoring," one long-time Eastern Conference scout said. "He’s more of a volume, streak scorer. At times he can play selfish in terms of making sure his teammates are involved."
This year’s draft is regarded as one of the deepest in recent years. Still, Rivers thought he was ready to turn pro after one college season. His dad agreed.
"This is what he was born for," Doc Rivers said. "He didn't grow up wanting to play for Duke, North Carolina or Kansas, even though they’re phenomenal programs. He grew up in an NBA lifestyle, and this is what he wanted to be and he thought he was ready."
One NBA assistant coach said he was surprised Austin Rivers didn’t work out at the NBA's predraft combine here Thursday. The East scout expects Rivers to be selected in the Nos. 10-20 range, but an NBA source told Yahoo! Sports that Rivers has a promise late in the draft lottery. The Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto Raptors, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets plan to work out Rivers.
Former NBA coach Flip Saunders recently worked out Rivers and said he was as talented as shooting guard he worked out over the last 15 years. Saunders loved Rivers' quickness, first step, shooting ability and work ethic, likening him to Golden State Warriors rookie guard Klay Thompson.
"If I was a team in the top 10, he’s a kid I would be zeroing in on because he has the ability to score," Saunders said. "Maybe I’m partial, but I’ve always said coach’s kids who have had dads who have been in the NBA, a lot of times know what it takes. They’re not intimidated by situations. They know how hard you have to work and usually have more respect for the game."
No one doubts Rivers' scoring ability, but some NBA scouts question whether the 19-year-old is too cocky and selfish. Rivers also went from being considered arguably the best prep player in the 2011 class to being regarded behind Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal in draft projections.
"Every single great player is cocky," Austin Rivers said. "[Michael] Jordan's cocky and [great players] have an ego. I think it's about having a healthy ego and being cocky in the right way, and that's what I am. I do have an ago, but it's a healthy one. It’s not one that brings teammates down or rubs them the wrong way or is arrogant.
"It’s more like being confident in yourself and believing in your teammates. It’s a good thing."
Doc Rivers is "fully confident" his son made the right decision to go pro.
"It’s funny. As a parent sometimes you hear some of the scouting reports and you say, 'What are they thinking about?' – especially as far as body language," Rivers said. "People get caught up in some of the silliest things sometimes. I say, 'Why don’t you call his coach and find out what kind of kid he is?'
"He’s a terrific kid, competitive as hell. All that will shake out. I don’t worry about it."
Austin Rivers should be gone by the time the Celtics pick at Nos. 21 and 22 in the first round. But if Celtics president Danny Ainge could move up to get Rivers, could his dad coach him?
"I don’t know," Doc Rivers said. "I’d be shocked if he was still there, but I think we’d be very happy with that."
Doc and his wife, Kris, have a close-knit, celebrated sports family. Doc Rivers coached the Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship and is the Atlanta Hawks' all-time leader in assists. His son, Jeremiah, played basketball collegiately at Indiana and Georgetown and played professionally in Serbia last season. His daughter, Callie, is a former Florida volleyball player. His youngest son, Spencer, plays basketball at Winter Park High School in Florida.
But June 28 will belong to Austin. Family and friends will join him at the draft in Newark, N.J.
"I’m going to try to build on my last name," Austin Rivers said.
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