Austin Rivers must leave Clippers to escape father’s shadow

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets

After the Los Angeles Clippers’ early exit from the NBA Playoffs, backup point guard, and son of head coach Doc Rivers, Austin Rivers, opted out of his deal and became a free agent. Playing under his father, Austin averaged 8.9 points in nearly 22 minutes per game.

Following his best season in the NBA, the 23-year-old will draw a lot of interest. However, the way that the Rivers’ family was portrayed during Austin’s second season (first full season) with the Clippers shows that his future is best suited away from his legendary father.

A lot of attention was drawn to the Rivers’ family when Austin described his relationship with Doc away from the hardwood. With the Clippers facing elimination from the playoffs and Doc dealing with the loss of his mother, drama in Hollywood wasn’t a surprise.

“He doesn’t really share his life outside of basketball with me,” Austin said to ESPN about his relationship with his Doc.

“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.”

FAMILY DRAMA

During the draft combine in Chicago, Doc sat down with ESPN to discuss a variety of topics surrounding the Clippers’ completed season. Of course, Austin’s name came up and the comment that they are not close outside of basketball came up.

Doc claimed that he and his son have a “terrific relationship”; even though he was away for most of his Austin’s childhood being an NBA player and coach. He also felt the media had a field day by pontificating on some family drama.

"One of the things I thought we did well -- when I'm around him here, I'm "Coach." In the summertime, I'm back to being a dad,” Doc said of his son. “It's tough, but it works. The comment was taken way further than what he meant. I knew what he meant.”

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Three

It’s good that Doc knew what Austin meant because the media and every fan of the Clippers had their own interpretation. Was Austin trying to downplay their relationship so some of the nepotism speculation went away? When your father – who is the coach and general manager of one of your hometown teams – swings a trade to acquire you, some interesting chatter is bound to arise.

But Doc’s own view of his son’s skills perhaps answered any questions.

During the ESPN interview, Doc was asked if Austin would be an “anonymous totally fine NBA rotation player” if his last name was Smith instead of Rivers.

“Yeah, but it is what it is,” Doc admitted. “There is no doubt about that. It's an easy way get hits. You know how that works.”

IMPROVEMENT

Doc acknowledged Austin’s improvement but realizes he received so much media attention during his 108-game stint with the Clippers merely because of his last name.

That’s exactly why Austin should do himself a favor and sign on elsewhere.

After a noticeable improvement, Rivers could potentially sign an enticing deal that would give him the chance to be a starter. During his five-year career, he’s mostly been a reserve; starting 26 games in his rookie campaign and never starting more than seven in a year since.

With Chris Paul holding a death grip on the Clippers’ point guard position, Austin – outside of an injury – has no clear path to being a starter.

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Three

Doc previously stated that if Los Angeles fell short of the playoffs, a breakup of the team’s core would take place. It helps that several players in addition to Austin are free agents; including Cole Aldrich, Wesley Johnson, Jeff Green, Jamal Crawford, Luc Mbah a Moute, Pablo Prigioni, Paul Pierce, and Jeff Ayres.

However, he changed his tune following the Clippers’ playoff exit, telling ESPN that he wants to re-sign as many of the Clippers’ free agents as possible. So, it’s smart for Austin to negotiate the best deal for himself – even if that means using Doc's words against him.

“I like our team,”Doc said days after the Clippers were eliminated by the Portland Trailblazers.

“Our bench was fantastic this year. The problem is we have a lot of free agents on our team and I think a lot of them are going to be attractive, and so we have to fight to keep our own first and then try to build from that point. We’re going to have a difficult time. It’s going to be tough.”

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