The New Orleans Hornets appeared to have struck gold on draft night in June when they picked Austin Rivers at the No. 10 spot after taking Anthony Davis first overall. Putting the explosive scoring abilities of Rivers and Eric Gordon in concert with the efforts of whatever point guard the Hornets could place in the backcourt with them would be exciting.
Until Rivers and that mystery point guard turned out to be the same person.
Rivers was considered to be a combo guard during his year at Duke. However, that point guard aspect to his game didn't so much involve him acting as a facilitator as it involved him controlling the ball for his own opportunities. He handled the ball more than anyone else for Duke. Again, his terrific ball-handling mainly led to scoring opportunities for himself.
His first attempt at the position in summer league action was anything but a success. He had 14 points and two assists while shooting a dreadful 3-of-13 from the field.
After the game, he told the Times-Picayune, "I'm going to work and I'll be ready. Tonight was the first time I've ever done it (played point guard) in my life. So you learn. I have five more games and many more practices. I'll be ready."
Maybe not. Those five more games turned out to be just one more before he became injured. And he's going to miss opportunities to practice the various point guard exercises that he needs to learn.
Dell Demps told the Times-Picayune on Friday that the son of Doc Rivers will be back in action at the start of training camp after recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his right ankle. That means Rivers will end up missing more than two months.
Once he does return, Rivers has just a month to prepare for the start of his first season as a point guard. That's very little time to prepare for an NBA debut against Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs. Rivers could be in big trouble come Halloween.
How will Austin Rivers fare playing point guard for the Hornets?
Fortunately, Monty Williams has hedged this idea a little bit. Two weeks ago, he told the Times-Picayune, "Obviously, during the season, we're going to play him at both positions."
Rivers followed Williams by chirping, "I will be playing point guard a lot next season, but I will be playing shooting guard a lot, too."
These statements from two members of an organization that made a practice of sending vague messages while under the guidance of the NBA are a bit unclear. Rivers could see time as a shooting guard alongside Gordon, with Gordon handling it more or with Gordon off the court and Greivis Vasquez running the point.
Another possibility is to feature Gordon, Rivers and Vasquez in a three-guard set with Vasquez running the point.
However Rivers happens to see time at the 2 would be great. At that, he should receive a significant amount of time there since he's not a natural at the point. The Hornets shouldn't try too hard to push him into being a point guard. That would be disastrous.
Hopefully, the period before training camp allows Williams to cool off the idea of Rivers at the point some more.