NBA: Doc and Austin Rivers Facing off Reminds Us Why We Love Basketball
Everyone clear their schedules for Wednesday night from 8:00 p.m. ET to around 11 p.m. ET. This is not for a lunar or solar eclipse or a blue moon. Something even more rare: A father coaching against his own son in the NBA.
How rare is this? Well, to my best knowledge it has happened just two other times—with Mike Dunleavy Sr. and Jr. and George Karl and Coby Karl.
Since those instances, it hasn't occurred.
A father-son duo to both play in the NBA is rare (Doc and Austin are that as well), but a dad coaching against his own son at any level is unheard of, especially in the NBA.
Even in youth basketball, your dad was always your coach. He would never coach against you. In the NBA, though, apparently different rules apply regarding dad coaches and son players.
It's not a conflict of interest by any stretch of the imagination. Doc will not spare Austin the Avery Bradley treatment or let him score just because he is his son. If anything, it will be the opposite.
Certainly, I will be interested to see how Doc treats Austin on the court in terms of schemes. Austin is not a star in this league yet, so he shouldn't garner the majority of the defense's focus, but I wonder if Doc will throw his best shot at him, just because it's his son.
On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how Austin reacts to playing against his dad or if he gets heightened playing time as a result.
As of late, Austin has struggled and hasn't earned big minutes. Perhaps coach Monty Williams, a friend of the family, will give Austin more minutes given the circumstances. And maybe, Austin will bust out of his funk with his dad on the other bench coaching.
It's not unlikely given Austin's personality and playing style. He is a confident and competitive kid. I got to see this first hand in watching him play at Duke.
The defining moment of Austin Rivers as a basketball player for me was the only game I saw him play live: Duke against Boston College in Boston.
Duke was blowing out BC when Rivers stood near half-court demanding the ball while the Duke offense was mid-play. He got the ball, took a couple dribbles, pulled up from thirty feet, drained the shot, then turned to the crowd with outstretched arms.
It was at that moment when I realized the fiery, competitive spirit of this kid. If you think that a couple thousand fans at the Conte Forum got him riled up, how about countless fans at the Boston Garden combined with his "dad's team" and his dad himself.
That is a recipe for a potential breakout game from the fiery rookie.
Then again, Doc could turn up the pressure on his son and make sure he can't even smell the basket.
This is what makes the game so enticing. We just don't know exactly what is going to happen when Doc and Austin go head-to-head on Wednesday night.
We do know this, though, that it will be emotional for the two of them. How could it not be?
Every basketball player's career, regardless of if they quit after a year or become an NBA player, starts in the driveway with dad. Basketball is the ultimate father-son driveway game.
Who will win?
Some of my fondest basketball memories came with my dad in the driveway shooting around, playing H-O-R-S-E or even one-on-one. I shoot around, waiting for my dad to finish yard work so that he could come and play, and my dad was no former NBA player like Doc Rivers.
It's doubtful that Austin will maintain that childlike enthusiasm that we all once had to be out in the driveway with our dads, but there will certainly be a lot of other emotions floating around the Boston Garden.
And at the end of the day, he will want to feel that strange sense of fulfillment of the first time you beat your dad in one-on-one.
Regardless of who wins, though, the matchup of father versus son in itself is symbolic enough. As I said before, basketball is the ultimate father-son game.
Behind every basketball player at every level, there is a dad, who bought your first basketball and taught you how to play the game.
Most of these careers that start in the driveway go nowhere, and the dads in the driveway never really pursue coaching careers. The primitive stages of a basketball career between the father and son, teacher and player, fade away and remain in that driveway, between only the two involved.
However, on Wednesday night, we see the driveway game taken to the pros. The young player is still in Austin Rivers as the old teacher is still in coach Doc Rivers. Only, Wednesday, the teacher and the student, the father and the son will not be alone in the driveway or on the same side.
Instead, the Garden will be packed with thousands of eager fans and Doc and Austin will be on opposite ends of the court.
This game is for every father and son out there who played the game together. There was a time when every kid was a player and every dad was a coach. Wednesday is one of those rare times we get to see it on the professional level.
So block off your schedule on Wednesday. If you understand the symbolism of this game as a father or a son, give your dad or son a call. Joke that that could have been you two out there as the player and coach in the NBA, if you played in the driveway a few more times.
Maybe reminisce about the old times shooting around in the driveway, because to be honest, all of us fell in love with the game of basketball with our dads in the driveway.
That is something you never forget, whether you or in the NBA or not.
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