What if the Celtics take Austin Rivers?

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What if the Celtics take Austin Rivers?

When Doc Rivers signed his five-year extension with the Celtics, the joke was that he only came back for a chance to coach his son.

Not that it was a particularly funny joke, but at the time it was funnier than it was realistic. Back then (waaay back in May 2011), the Celtics were perennial contenders who hadn't drafted higher than No. 19 since the Big 3 came together. Meanwhile, Rivers was considered a potential Top 5 pick; a lottery pick at the very, very least.

Austin Rivers to the Celtics? Interesting conspiracy. But not happening.

Or so we thought.

And still we think, but since last May things have slightly changed. Not so much for the Celtics who, if the season ended today, would have the 17th and 24th (from LAC) picks in the draft. But more on Rivers' end.

After an uneven season at Duke, one that left many scouts hoping he'd head back for another year, some experts predict that Rivers will not only fall out of the lottery but might even be available when the Celtics are on the clock.

Last week, in his first Mock Draft for ESPN.com (Insider Only), Chad Ford actually has the Celtics passing over Rivers at No. 17 for Kentucky's Terrence Jones. He has Austin going to Houston with the 21st pick.

Now obviously that's all insanely premature, as so much can and will change as far as where teams draft. And obviously Rivers will have a ton of individual workouts and interviews that may alter his standing. Not to mention, Chad Ford isn't an NBA GM.

Still, now more than ever, there exists a possibility that the Celtics will be on the clock this June, with Austin Rivers still sitting in the green room. He's a scoring two-guard. And while he may be undersized for the NBA position, that's a place where the Celtics (assuming Ray Allen heads elsewhere) could use some help. So what do you think?

We joked about Doc Rivers having a chance to coach his son, but what if that chance actually presents itself? Would the Celtics pull the trigger? Maybe trade Avery Bradley and start billing Rivers and Rondo as the back court of the future? Or is that just inviting all sorts of unnecessary controversy to a situation that already has its fair share?

Personally, I'm still not convinced these draft picks will even stay with the Celtics. At the very least, I don't expect them to make both picks. I mean, what will Doc do if the Celtics add TWO more rookies to next year's roster? Isn't that his worst nightmare? Asking Doc to work with rookies is like asking Superman to work with kryptonite, and if that's the case heading into next year's training camp, Doc might go insane.

This is a guy who's down to a seven-man rotation, has an aging core that needs to stay healthy and rested for the playoffs, yet still refuses to give JaJuan Johnson a shot. Last month, Johnson played 33 minutes against the Bulls that's Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, one of the strongest front courts in the league and completely held his own. He had 12 points, four rebounds, two steals and a block. And more importantly, the Celtics won. Now he can't get off the bench?

The same thing happened earlier this season with Greg Stiemsma. He started playing really well (we're talking relatively, of course). He was the biggest surprise of the early part of the season. Then suddenly he falls out of the rotation. He didn't even play himself out of it (at least not in games). Then a few weeks ago, he gets another chance, and goes back to doing the exact same thing that he was at the beginning of the year. Now everyone's like, "Wow, look at Stiemsma coming on strong! He's really turned himself into a pro." But the truth is that he had this in him all along, he was just buried. The same way Johnson is now.

That's why I think it's far more likely that at least one of those picks are traded away as a piece in a bigger deal by Danny Ainge. But I guess that doesn't answer my original question:

What happens if the Celtics are on the clock, and Austin Rivers is still available? If instead of having to frantically fly around on off-days in order to catch his son's games (like he's done the past few years), Doc has the chance to coach his son every single day? IN THE NBA.

I'm sure it's a decision that Doc will have to wrestle with. Whether or not he's ever actively pushed for Austin to end up in Boston, I'm sure it's something he's considered, even dreamed about. How could he not?

But in the end, I don't see how he lets that dream get in the way of Celtics basketball. Especially when you consider how overly sensitive everyone would be about the motivation behind bringing his son on board. If Rivers does somehow end up on the Celtics, it will have to be for the right reasons. And the bigger issue is: Do those right reasons exist?

Is there anyway bringing on an undersized scorer like Austin Rivers is more essential than drafting an athletic power forward like Jones or a legitimate center?

I doubt it. Which is why I, and most people still highly doubt, there will be a Rivers family reunion at next season at the Garden.

Or that if there is, the younger Rivers will be wearing the wrong jersey.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

OFFSEASON

Mental training is the secret to Jaylen Brown's development

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Mental training is the secret to Jaylen Brown's development

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown’s athleticism was among the many reasons the Boston Celtics selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in last month’s NBA draft. But even before he became a Green Teamer, Brown’s aspirations were much greater than being a high draft pick.

“I want to be a top five player in the league,” Brown said at his introductory press conference last month. It’s a lofty goal for sure; the kind that requires more than just talent. And that’s where Graham Betchart – Brown’s mental skills coach - comes in.

Betchart’s work as a mental skills coach has been on full display as one of the keys to Brown being among the standout performers during summer leagues in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, respectively. 

The 6-foot-7 rookie was named to the Las Vegas Summer League’s second team, one of just three lottery picks (top-14) in last month’s NBA draft (Ben Simmons of LSU and Thon Maker of Milwaukee) named to the first (Simmons) or second (Maker) team along with Brown.

In addition to Brown, Betchart has worked with each of the last three first overall picks – Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns and most recently, Simmons. Betchart said he also worked with current Celtic guard Marcus Smart when he was at Oklahoma State.

While each player has their own specific program, there are some common threads that bind all of his clients.

“The big thing I want them to focus on is what in their control,” Betchart told CSNNE.com from New York City where he was meeting with the New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has been one of the more outspoken athletes when it comes to mental health-related issues. “And so for a lot of these guys, they’re so good in high school and even college, they can focus on results and still produce results. As you get older, you realize that results are totally out of your control. And so my focus is getting them to focus on what’s in their control, and learning how to do it consistently; how to create a pattern, a consistent mindset.”

We saw that from Brown this summer with the Celtics’ summer league teams. He averaged 16.0 points and 6.2 rebounds but did so shooting a not-so-great 30.7 percent from the field and was even worst (27.2 percent) on 3s.

However, he did manage to get to the free throw line 10.2 times per game, which is surprising when you consider whistles typically aren’t blown as often in the summer than they are in a regular season game. And just to put his free throw average in perspective, only two players – Houston’s James Harden and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins – averaged more than 10 free throw attempts per game last season.

Brown has said on more than one occasion that getting to the free throw line often has to be one of his strengths in the NBA. Based on what he did this past summer, there’s no question it’s something he has indeed made a priority.

And the fact that Brown was able to do it consistently this summer falls in line with one of the core concepts that Betchart preaches to his clients.

“To me the hardest thing in sports is to be consistent,” said Betchart, who is now the director of mental training for San Francisco-based Lucid, a mental training app for athletes. “Anyone can just once in a while show up and have a great game. It really starts with having a consistent mindset based on what you can control. They have to be in the moment no matter what’s going on. It could be really bad, it could be really good.”

And when it’s over, players can’t dwell in the mistakes of the past.

“We make a mistake and get hung up sometimes,” Betchart said. “But if you can move on to that next play and train your focus to do that, it’s really hard to stop you if you don’t stop yourself.”

Instead, those mistakes actually form the foundation for future success.

In the case of Brown, one of the biggest knocks on him coming into the NBA was his shooting touch being anything but consistent.

“It’s the growth mindset,” Betchart said. “If you are going to master shooting, you’re gonna have to miss a lot of shots. It’s kind of like learning to walk. When you were learning to walk, you don’t remember but you fell down all the time. You didn’t say, ‘Oh I’m not going to walk. I’m just going to stay on the ground.’ You just picked yourself up and eventually you learned. When you get to the professional level, your game is analyzed on where it is right now. And right now, he’s 19 years old. There’s no way he’s going to be as good a shooter now as he’ll be at 23 and 25. And so if he embraces the growth mindset and just continues to focus on his process, which is taking the shot, being assertive, taking your shot, it’s all going to work out. I know this to be factually true.”

Another one of Betchart’s clients is Orlando forward Aaron Gordon, who came into the NBA as one of the worst free throw shooters in college basketball. In his lone season at Arizona, Gordon shot just 42.2 percent from the free throw line.

In his two NBA seasons, the 6-foot-9 forward has shot 68.1 percent.

“People were laughing at (Gordon’s free throw shooting) sarcastically and now as a pro he’s shooting (almost) 70 percent,” Betchart said. “It was all based on a growth mindset; just allowing yourself to fail and really, you’re not failing. You’re learning how to shoot. We introduce a concept called Victory goes to the Vulnerable. You’re going to be vulnerable sometimes. People are going to talk about your shot. That’s OK. We let people have their opinions. We don’t try and stop them. It’s all part of the process.”

Ah yes, the process.

If you listen to Brown, he has said on more than one occasion whether he played well or not, that all that he’s going through now is part of a process that will eventually make him a better person and a better player for the Celtics.

Part of that process is utilizing the various mental techniques and teachings of Betchart, who has known Brown since he was 15 years old and had a chance to spend a considerable amount of face-to-face time with him this past year when Brown was at Cal.

Most of what Betchart talks about has a strong basketball teaching component to it. But at the end of the day, there’s a lot more going on.

“Everybody starts to realize these are life skills,” Betchart said. “It’s tough to separate basketball from life. You’re going to be who you are on the court, off the court. These skills, learning to control what you can control, being present, moving on after mistakes, this is what we leave in life as well, learning how to be vulnerable in life and do those things. It naturally gravitates towards life and … what’s going on in life. It’s a natural progression. They’re human beings who choose to play a sport for a living. They are not basketball players; Basketball is what they do.”

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN