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."

Former Celtics teammates praise Garnett's passion and intensity

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Former Celtics teammates praise Garnett's passion and intensity

WALTHAM, Mass. – Like so many players who have spent part of their NBA journey having Kevin Garnett barking in their ear words of encouragement or just telling them to get the hell out his (bleepin’) way, you can count Avery Bradley among those who will miss the man affectionately known as ‘Big Ticket.’

Garnett recently announced his retirement after 21 NBA seasons, leaving behind a legacy that includes an NBA title won with the Boston Celtics in 2008.

Among the current Celtics, Bradley is the only current member of the team who played with Garnett in Boston.

When Bradley got the news about Garnett’s retirement, he said he sat down and wrote Garnett a letter.

“To let him know how much I appreciate him, how special he is to me,” said Bradley who added that his relationship with Garnett was impactful both on and off the court. “Kevin’s just an amazing person.”

Leon Powe, a member of the Celtics’ championship team in 2008 with Garnett, echoed similar praise about his former teammate.

“As a teammate, as a player, KG meant the world to me,” Powe told CSNNE.com. “Intensity … he brought everything you would want to the game, to the practice field, he was just non-stop energy.”

And when you saw it time after time after time with him, pretty soon it became contagious.

“The intensity just motivated every guy on the team, including me,” Powe said. “It made you want to go out and lay it out on the line for him and the team. You see how passionate he is. You see he’s one of the greats. And when you see one of the greats of the NBA going hard like that all the time, you’re like ‘Man, why can’t I do that? It trickled down to me and every young guy on the team.

Powe added, “He brought that every single day, night, morning, it didn’t matter. He brought that intensity. That’s all you could ask for.”

And Garnett’s impact was about more than changing a franchise’s fortunes in terms of wins and losses.

He also proved to be instrumental in helping re-shape the culture into one in which success was once again defined by winning at the highest levels.

“KG has had as big an impact as anybody I’ve been around in an organization,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “The thing that stands out the most to me about KG is his team-first mentality. He never wanted it to be about KG, individual success to trump team success. He lived that in his day-to-day practice. That’s something I’ll remember about him.”