Family affair: Rivers clan to clash when Celtics see Hornets

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Family affair: Rivers clan to clash when Celtics see Hornets

WALTHAM As a high school freshman, Austin Rivers did the seemingly unthinkable -- he beat his father, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, in a game of 1-on-1.

"He beat me bad," the elder Rivers recalled. "He beat me and then I played him one more time because I thought it was a fluke. He got me again. That was it."

The two have never faced off in a game since, something that will change tomorrow night when Doc Rivers and the Celtics host his son Austin and the New Orleans Hornets in what will be the first time this father-son combo have been on opposite sides of the floor since, well, the day Austin beat him.

But this is so, so different.

Aside from the fact that Doc will be coaching and not playing, the stakes are significantly higher for both. Doc is trying to lead the C's to a seventh straight win, which would put them four games over .500 for the first time this season.

And Austin, who has been up and down all season, could use a big game to not only help his team but also provide a much-needed boost of confidence.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. knows all too well what Austin Rivers is going through right now.

Dunleavy, a former Duke player who was a lottery pick, just like Austin, has faced off against teams coached by his dad.

His advice?

"Play your game, and play to win," Dunleavy Jr. told CSNNE.com in a phone interview. "It's not easy, obviously. But you need to try and approach it as if it's just another game, but knowing it really isn't.

"At the end of the day, he's still going to be your dad and you're going to be his son," Dunleavy Jr. added. "But you both want to win the game, too."

Although it is a different dynamic, Celtics center Jason Collins knows a thing or two about facing a family member.

The 7-foot veteran has had a number of battles against his twin brother Jarron in the NBA.

"First it starts with ticket requests and all the family stuff you have to get out of the way," Collins told CSNNE.com. "The first game Jarron and I played against each other, a lot of family was in town."

The biggest challenge for them, Collins said, was figuring out who to root for.

"Obviously they want us to both do well," Collins said. "But my parents had a system where they would root for whichever of us was playing for the home team."

Collins doesn't remember much from the game other than the experience of being out there competing against someone who for so many years has literally been there throughout your journey as a young child into an NBA player.

"We have a lot of really cool pictures of us on the court and stuff like that," Collins said. "For Doc, it's obviously going to be special."

The uniqueness of facing his son is not lost on Doc Rivers' players or his coaching staff.

"I just thought they were way too nice in the scouting report today," quipped Doc Rivers who added, "It's a strange thing. As a father, it's nice to see him. The only drawback of him being in the NBA is I haven't been to a game. And I miss that a little bit, to be honest. But other than that, it's really cool."

Especially for the Rivers family, most -- if not all -- of whom Doc Rivers expects will be rooting for Austin instead of him.

"When Austin's not playing, they're Celtics fans," said Doc Rivers. "When Austin is playing, they're Hornets fans or Austin fans for sure."

Even though Doc has had years to prepare for this day, there are those within the C's organization who saw Austin's promise well before his father.

When the Celtics hired Doc in 2004, Austin, then in grade school, would often come up to the Celtics practice facility and shoot around before and sometimes after practice.

Doc Rivers recalls Danny Ainge telling him even at that age that Austin had the makings of a future NBA player.

"Danny reminds me of that quite a bit, as he should," Doc Rivers said.

As Austin got older, his game -- and confidence -- continued to blossom in part because of his interaction with Celtics players such as Paul Pierce.

Pierce recalls playing Austin in a game of 1-on-1 that was a lot closer than Pierce expected.

"I took him lightly," Pierce said. "That's why."

Still, the 10th grader showed Pierce more than enough to convince the Truth that someday he just might have to face Austin in a real game -- an NBA game.

"I went upstairs (after the 1-on-1 game) and told Doc, 'you got an NBA player right there,'" Pierce recalled.

What stood out to Pierce was Austin's confidence, something that college basketball fans saw often during his one season at Duke.

"He had a lot of confidence," Pierce said. "You just saw the things that you see in current NBA players, you see that he had a lot of that in him."

Like Austin, Pierce also spent time as a high school baller playing against college and pro players in Los Angeles.

The Engelwood, Calif. native doesn't hesitate in speaking about how those games did wonders for making him feel as though he could play against anyone.

"You want to try and go out and prove something," Pierce said. "I did have a chance to play against NBA guys when I was in high school. You wanted to show that you were capable of just hanging with them. If you play well, I think it really gives you a confidence booster."

Pierce added, "I became a more confident player. I definitely wasn't wide-eyed. The only player I was probably wide-eyed against was playing against Magic (Johnson). But I was a pretty good athlete as a senior, so I knew athletically I was close. When I made shots, it gave me confidence."

Like any father, Doc wants to see his son do well . . . but not too well on Wednesday night.

"He can have a lot of good games," Doc said. "He can have 80 good games this year. But there's two that I don't really need him to play that well."

New Orleans plays at Philadelphia tonight so Austin will not get into town until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

At some point the two will sit down and chat before the game, although it probably won't have much if anything to do with Wednesday night's game.

As much as Doc wants to win every game, this game won't have any affect on the pride he feels in Austin living out his dream -- the kind of pride any father would feel at a child achieving what they aspired to become.

"He's my son. I talk to him all the time; we talk every day," Doc Rivers said. "He's going to be my son during the game, after the game, before the game, none of that is going to change."

Said Dunleavy: "It's kind of weird in some ways. I mean, beating dad in the backyard is one thing. But playing against the team he coaches, in the NBA, that's totally different. But it really is an honor. Fathers coaching against their sons in the NBA doesn't happen a lot. So when it does, it's pretty cool. Because you know both of you want to win, but at the end of the day, he's still your dad and he's going to be proud of you no matter what happens in the game."

Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention

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Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention

BOSTON – Celtics fans are slowly but surely getting over the disappointment of the team not landing the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft lottery earlier this month.
 
As cool as that would have been, the conference finals serve as a reminder that while having the top pick can be a good thing, most teams have to take a different route when it comes to getting on track towards and NBA title.
 
Of the four remaining teams in the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the only one that has truly been elevated to their current lofty status courtesy of landing the number one overall pick (first with LeBron James back in 2003 and more recently with Kyrie Irving in 2011).
 
That means the rest of the remaining field built their way up into an NBA power relying on a combination of making wise draft picks and shrewd additions via free agency and trades.
 
So much of that has to do with leverage, something the Celtics have plenty of on all three fronts.
 
They have the potential to free up enough salary cap space to sign a pair of max players, a first for this franchise. Boston also has eight draft picks in next month’s draft (three in the first round, five in the second), the most of any team leading up to the draft since it went to a two-round system in 1989.
 
Those picks plus a roster full of really good but not great talent, gives them the kind of ammunition to pull the trigger on a trade that could add that much-needed All-Star caliber talent.
 
But it’s like a high school chemistry experiment as the Celtics try to figure out the right combinations to avoid having it all blow up in their face.
 
For now, the emphasis has to be on the June 23 draft.
 
A big part of that planning process involves figuring out what to do with the No. 3 pick, the highest selection the Celtics have had since they took Jeff Green (and traded him that night) with the fifth overall selection in 2007.
 
If the Celtics keep the pick, it will certainly bring about some controversy regardless of who they select.
 
By taking Dragan Bender of Croatia, the Celtics will be selecting the youngest player in the draft (he turns 19 in November) who may take years to develop into a legitimate contributor.
 
Selecting Providence College’s Kris Dunn, arguably the best perimeter defender in this draft, seems a bit redundant considering all the guards Boston has under contract whose strengths are essentially the same as Dunn’s.
 
Buddy Hield of Oklahoma is another option. He’s the best shooter in this draft, but doesn’t provide much other than scoring. Is that really worthy of a No. 3 overall pick?
 
Regardless of who the Celtics take with the No. 3 pick (and that’s assuming they keep it and not trade it away which is indeed an option), one thing we know for sure.
 
History tells us that if the Celtics keep the pick, he will wind up being a pretty good player.
 
In the past 20 years, the No. 1 overall pick has produced 12 All-Stars.
 
Among top six picks in that same span of time, the No. 3 selection has generated the second-highest number of All-Stars (8), while the No. 2, 4, 5 and 6 picks each had five All-Stars.
 
That’s important to note because the need to have multiple All-Stars is paramount to a team’s chances at making a deep playoff run.
 
Take a look at the four remaining teams.
 
There’s the defending champion Golden State Warriors, whose roster includes a quartet of current (Stephen Curry; Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) and former All-Stars (Andre Iguodala).
 
Cleveland’s roster includes a similar breakdown of recent (LeBron James; Kyrie Irving; Kevin Love) and not-so-recent (Mo Williams) All-Stars.
 
And then there’s Oklahoma City (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook) and Toronto (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan) who each have a pair of All-Stars.
 
For Boston, the team's lone All-Star is Isaiah Thomas, who knows all too well that he can’t carry this team to a deep, meaningful playoff run without getting some All-Star caliber help.

The top two picks in this year’s draft – Duke’s Brandon Ingram and LSU’s Ben Simmons – are head and shoulders above the rest of the draft class, but the Celtics are in a good spot if you’re talking about adding a key piece to a potential title contender. 

Report: Ainge in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender

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Report: Ainge in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and his son, Austin Ainge, the team’s director of player personnel, will be in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender, the potential No. 3 pick in the draft, the Boston Herald reported. 

Bender, a 7-foot-1, 18-year-old from Croatia, won’t be playing in games this weekend but will be practicing for Maccabi Tel Aviv.  Bender is a bench player for Maccabi, averaging 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds. Still, his size and potential to develop  have him projected to go as high as No. 3.

Here’s CSN’s scouting report of Bender.

Danny Ainge was in Croatia earlier this week scouting 6-11 Ante Zizic. 

 

Report: 76ers look to deal Okafor or Noel in draft trade

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Report: 76ers look to deal Okafor or Noel in draft trade

There’s a high likelihood the Philadelphia 76ers will trade Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel in connection with the June 23 draft, in which the Sixers hold the No. 1 pick, ESPN’s Chad Ford reported.

The Celtics, who have the No. 3 pick, have been rumored to be willing to part with it in a deal that includes Okafor.

Ford said in an interview with Philadelphia-area radio station ESPN 97.3:

You will not see the Nerlens Noel-Jahlil Okafor pairing at the start of next season. I think that they'll gauge the interest of both players. I think that there might be a slight preference for Noel, to keep him around with the Sixers, and I think you might be right, there might be a slight, better value for Okafor out on the market, but I think everyone agrees that that combination of those two players doesn't necessarily work.

The Sixers are expected to choose LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram with the top pick.  Ford and Marc Stein also reported Philly’s willingness to deal Okafor or Noel in this ESPN article. 

As a deal with the Celtics for the No. 3 pick, Ford told 97.3:

Absolutely…If I was Philadelphia, it would be done tomorrow. I don't know if Boston would do it, but for Philadelphia, 100 percent. That would allow them to actually I think bring in another guard, an elite guard, whether that's Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray, and suddenly now you've got a very, very bright future. I think that's an easy call for the Sixers if Boston would do it.