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."

Potential is there, now how quickly will Jaylen Brown reach it?

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Potential is there, now how quickly will Jaylen Brown reach it?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON –  When it comes to high NBA draft picks, there’s always a certain roll-of-the-dice dynamic in play, regardless of how impressive their credentials were in making them one of the first players selected.

Among this year’s incoming rookie class, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown is indeed one of the many men of mystery whose professional basketball career officially starts in a few months.

Drafted third overall, the 6-foot-7 Brown wasn’t exactly greeted with the warmest reception by Celtics Nation, many of whom wanted Boston to draft Providence College star Kris Dunn (he was the fifth overall pick, to Minnesota) or package the No. 3 pick with other assets to acquire a superstar-caliber player like Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Utah’s Gordon Hayward or one of the Philadelphia big men, Jahlil Okafor or Massachusetts native Nerlens Noel.

But as Celtics fans witnessed when he was among the biggest stars on Boston’s summer league entry in Salt Lake City, as well as Las Vegas, Brown is indeed a player with tremendous potential that could be realized as soon as this season.  

The ceiling for Brown: All-Rookie honors

Brown’s most likely starting point as a pro will be serving as a backup to Jae Crowder, the unofficial Swiss Army knife of the Celtics roster. As we saw last season in Crowder’s first as a regular NBA starter, he can play a lot of positions on the floor and be effective.

Brown isn’t close to being as versatile as Crowder, but he does provide versatility at the wing position due to his above-average length and a level of athleticism that stands out among his fellow rookies.

Depending on what Brown does with his minutes at the start of the season – and he will play early on – he could parlay his on-court time into extended minutes, which would give him a shot at being one of the top rookies this season.

Brown isn’t going to put up the big-time numbers that Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram, the No. 1 and 2 picks, will register. Still, unlike those two players, Brown will be fighting for playing time on a legitimate playoff contender.

Both the Sixers and Lakers are poised to once again be among the worst teams in the NBA.

That means Browns’ success can’t be based on statistics, but instead it has to be about impact. We saw glimpses of that in the summer when he showed off his ability to attack the rim and draw contact, which resulted in him taking more than 10 free throws per game.

No one is expecting Brown to be that proficient at getting fouls called for him, especially when you consider only two players in the NBA last season – Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Houston’s James Harden – averaged 10 or more free throws per game.

But Brown’s aggressive style on offense, coupled with above-average athleticism and length defensively, will bode well for his chances of being more than just a solid rookie for Boston.

Brown has the potential to make a noticeable impact, the kind that would most likely land him a spot on one of the NBA’s All-Rookie teams and move him a step closer towards being one of the NBA’s better players – a goal he has set for himself.

The floor for Brown: Active roster

If Brown struggles offensively and doesn’t adjust defensively as quick as coach Brad Stevens wants, Brown could find himself on the bench racking up a few DNP-CDs (did not play-coaches decision) this season.

Still, even if that happens, the Celtics will not let him spend too much time at the end of the bench and certainly wouldn’t look to have him on the bench in street clothes as a healthy scratch. They would just as soon send him to play or practice with the team’s Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

While the rumors swirled on draft night that Boston was indeed planning to make a blockbuster-type move that would have involved the No. 3 pick, you won’t hear anyone in the front office complaining about drafting Brown.

They love his competitiveness, his drive to steadily improve as a player as well as his athleticism, which sets him apart from most of his Celtics teammates.

But only time will tell just how quickly the faster-paced NBA game will come to Brown. He’s a player the Celtics – for now at least – have every intention of including as part of their core group going forward.

Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

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Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

During our series discussing the 1986 Boston Celtics, we have sat down with many players from that championship, along with members of the media that were close to the team.

This week features a few of the opponents that were very familiar with the 1980’s Celtics  - Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, former Celtics coach (and Hawk) Doc Rivers, and Lakers great James Worthy.

Return of Gerald Green could fill vital bench role for Celtics

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Return of Gerald Green could fill vital bench role for Celtics

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON –  Say what you want about Gerald Green, but his athleticism is the one thing you can bank on him delivering.

The 30-year-old Green doesn’t play above the rim nearly as much as he used to, but he does enough to where his presence will indeed be an upgrade for the Celtics this season.

But in terms of what his exact role will be, that will be worked out in the coming months as Green begins a second tour of duty with Boston (the Celtics drafted him with the 18th overall pick in 2005).

The ceiling for Green: Sixth or seventh man

Green’s return will in no way impact Jae Crowder’s status as the Celtics’ starting small forward. And Avery Bradley has nothing to worry about when it comes to Green competing for his spot as the team’s starting shooting guard, either. But Green’s experience will give him a chance to compete for minutes behind both coming off the bench.

At 6-foot-8, Green has the size and length to play both positions. And having played nine seasons in the NBA, Green has learned enough in that time to find ways to impact games in ways besides highlight-quality dunks.

Green is coming off a not-so-stellar season in Miami in which he averaged 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds, while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and just 32.3 percent on 3s – both numbers below his career averages.

Part of Green’s drop in production last season (he averaged 11.9 points or more in three of the previous four seasons) had to do with the emergence of Justice Winslow, and Green’s own shooting struggles, which eventually led to him playing a more limited role in the Heat offense.

But in Boston, Green won’t be counted on to be a significant contributor in terms of scoring. Instead, he will be seen as a player who can be looked upon from time to time to provide some punch (offensively or defensively) from the wing. If we’re talking offense, Green can help both from the perimeter or as an effectively attacker of the rim.

The floor for Green: Active roster

As much as the attention surrounding Green’s game centers on what he does with the ball in his hands, it his defense that will keep him on the Celtics’ active roster all season. Although Miami sought scoring more often from others, doing so allowed Green to focus more of his attention on defense, which may wind up being the best thing for his career at this stage.

Coming off the bench primarily after the All-Star break, opponents shot 33.3 percent when defended by Green, which was more than 10 percentage points (10.9) below what they shot from the field (44.2) overall.

He was even tougher on opponents shooting 2-pointers against him. They were held more than 15 percentage points (15.5) below their shooting percentage from 2-point range when he was defending versus their overall shooting for the season.

But don’t be fooled.

Green can still score the ball and as he gets older, he’s finding more and more ways to do so.

While much of Green’s NBA success has come about with him attacking the rim, he has progressively improved his game as a catch-and-shoot player. In fact, 54.8 percent of his shot attempts last season were of the catch-and-shoot variety according to nba.com/stats.

That makes sense when you consider that he had an effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of .491 when he took shots without taking any dribbles, which was better than Green’s eFG% when he shot from the floor and took at least one dribble.

Green’s second stint with the Celtics doesn’t come with nearly as much hype as there was when Boston selected him  out of high school with the 18th overall pick in 2005. Still, he has the potential to fill a vital role for the Celtics now, a role that could go far in determining how successful this season will be for himself as well as the Celtics.