Contrary to popular belief, Austin Rivers is not a product of nepotism

PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 26: Austin Rivers
PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 26: Austin Rivers /

Despite his improved play, audiences tend to believe that Austin Rivers is only in the NBA because of his father. Here’s why that’s false.

Think back to the last time you heard/saw someone say/write something negative about Austin Rivers. Specifically, if they said that the only reason he’s in the league is because of his father, Head Coach Doc Rivers.  What did you say in response? Did you let it slide? Maybe you called that person out? Did you agree with them? Or worse – were you the person who originally said it?

I’m a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, stating that Austin is “no good” and thinking that his daddy is the only reason he has a contract is, well, flat wrong.

Rivers is a starting shooting guard on a good LA Clippers team in what is widely regarded as the world’s best professional basketball league. He’s a mere 25 years old, almost 6 years removed from his single season at Duke. Statistically, he’s improved at least two facets of his game every season. Oh, and he’s shooting 45% from beyond the arc this season, on 31 attempts. It’s early, but that’s an 8-point jump from last year’s 37%.

It’s not all numbers, though. Rivers is resilient more than anything else. I’m flooded with memories of Austin’s memorable Game 6 performance against the Portland Trail Blazers in 2016. He went down early with a brutal eye laceration, suffered after he made contact with Al-Farouq Aminu’s elbow. Rivers left for the locker room, got 11 stitches, and finished the game. Without Chris Paul, without Blake Griffin, Rivers led the shorthanded Clippers to a 3-point defeat, on the road, in an elimination game, against a very good Portland team. He recorded 21 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds.

The kid can play, without a doubt. And I think people are beginning to realize that. What they don’t understand though, is his relationship with Doc. According to ESPN’s Arash Markazi, the two don’t share a typical father-son relationship.

"“He doesn’t really share his life outside of basketball with me,” Austin said. “He and I don’t know each other like that. We know each other as strictly basketball. A lot of people on the outside don’t understand that because people think we have a relationship like every other father and son. We just don’t. That’s because he’s been gone my whole life, and that’s fine.”"

The idea that Doc favors Austin isn’t justified. In fact, a report from late June stating that Doc’s favoritism of his son was the driving force behind Chris Paul’s departure was refuted by Paul himself.

The idea that Austin could only play for the LA Clippers is also unjust. According to former Clippers beat writer Dan Woike of the Orange County Register (now with the LA Times), Rivers turned down larger offers to stay with the Clippers. The Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets, and New York Knicks had all shown significant interest in him before he re-signed in 2016.

The truth is this: Rivers benefits from having an incredibly talented coach, not from having his father coach the team. Even though those two people are the same, they’re very different, and it’s a totally different situation.

Rivers wasn’t as good with the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans for numerous reasons, but here are a few. One, he was younger and had less experience. Two, Monty Williams isn’t the coach that Doc Rivers is. Third, role. When Rivers was in New Orleans, he had to compete with guys like Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, and Greivis Vasquez for minutes. And when he was playing, he was never the first option, let alone the second or third.

Austin is good. Period. He belongs on this team, and any other team that needs a two-guard who can score from any range, defends with energy, and leads with his heart.