LOS ANGELES — With 2:24 remaining in the first quarter Friday night, for the first time ever an NBA player was called off the bench and took the court for his father’s team — Austin Rivers was just traded for and is now playing for his father Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers.
How is this going to change their father/son relationship?
“I think the biggest difference is now he has to listen to me,” Rivers joked before his Clippers took on the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night. “From his perspective, he probably thinks every kid will listen to their parents if you pay them.”
The Clippers got Rivers as part of a mid-season shakeup of their bench. The Clippers paid a steep price moving Reggie Bullock, Chris Douglas-Roberts and a second round pick to bring in Rivers. The trade was not well reviewed by pundits (this one included) but Doc Rivers reiterated many times that he did this to make the team better.
“He fits our team,” Doc said.
What does the younger Rivers’ bring?
“For one defense,” Austin said before his first game with Los Angeles. “Being a physical guard, a bigger guard, just trying to be physical with players. Guarding the one or two spot, even the three depending on who.
“Offensively I can score the ball, and just play make. That’s something I think the team needs with that second unit — someone who can make plays scoring and setting up other guys. Just someone who can attack the basket and kick out to other shooters. When they said they needed that, that’s why I didn’t even hesitate, to do that for a team like this, I had to jump at this.”
The younger Rivers struggled in his debut, going 0-4 from the field with an ugly turnover.
From Doc’s perspective, art of the reason to do this also was a chemistry issue, there were concerns about the dynamic in the Clippers’ locker room and with bench players. This was seen as a way to improve it. While Jordan Farmar (who was waived Friday) may have gotten under the skin of teammates Austin came in talking about fitting in with his role, knowing he was not the star of this team but saying he would look for ways to help.
For the Clippers, trading for Austin and waiving Farmar is part of a likely series of moves as they have their eye on buyout guys like Nate Robinson and Tayshaun Prince.
“It gives us a lot of flexibility,” Rivers said. “Like last year — and we could be wrong with this — but we think this is going to be a big buyout season for a lot of guys, and we wanted to have flexibility.”
Doc and Austin seemed good with how this would pay out. They both said the person really in the middle was Doc’s wife and Austin’s mom Kristin.
“To be honest I never thought something like this would happen,” Austin said. “(Doc) called he up and asked, ‘is this something you’d be into because we need you?’ When I heard that I had to think, had to take a day to myself and think could this work?”
“First thing I did was call my mom, because she’s the one that’s got to deal with this, and she was a wreck the first night,” Austin said.
But he convinced her that he and his father, who have long had a basketball-centric relationship, could make this work.
Now Doc and Austin have to just make history and make this work.