Family mattersMORE: The Francona years

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Family mattersMORE: The Francona years

From the moment Austin Rivers first arrived on this country's basketball radar, there's been speculation about him one day playing for his father. And in the hours leading up to last summer's draft, a report surfaced that Celtics were in the process of trying to make that dream a reality.

Of course, it never happened. Austin went to the Hornets at No. 10; the Celtics had to "settle" for Jared Sullinger at No. 21. And tonight at the Garden, both Riverseses face the alternate reality of competing against family Father vs. Son on basketball's biggest stage.

But just for one second, let's go back to last summer, and the question we all spent far too much time discussing: Is it a bad idea for Doc to coach his son?

In other words, would the pair be able to separate family and basketball? Would Doc be able to strap on the blinders and treat Austin the same way he did Jeff Green, Avery Bradley or anyone else on the team? Would Austin be able to see Doc as a coach between the lines and a father outside the gym?

Or was it a recipe for disaster?

A lot of people said yes.

But I wasn't one of them.

I just have to much respect for Doc Rivers as a coach and a competitor to ever think he'd put his son before the team; any team, but especially the Celtics. Bring on Austin, I said. Everything will be fine. When it comes to basketball, the team will always be Doc's priority.

And tonight, he has a chance to prove me right.

How?

By getting in Austin's head.

Honestly, can you imagine how easy it will be for Pops to take Austin out of his game tonight?

First of all, the kid's struggling big time to begin with. Of the Top 10 picks in last year's draft, only the Kings' Thomas Robinson (4.9) is averaging fewer than Rivers' 6.2 points a game. No one's shooting worse than Rivers' .328 from the field. He's also the only Top 10 pick currently posting a negative Win Share.

Combine that with the pressure of playing against Dad in Boston, and the 20-year-old rookie will be a basket case. And there's no one in the world who knows how to push Austin Rivers' buttons and trigger certain emotions like dear old dad.

I'm not saying it should be anything flagrant either. I'm not asking him to talk trash, at least not in the classic sense. He should just be subtle.

For instance, Austin draws a foul and goes to the line. He's going through his routine, getting ready to shoot, when suddenly Doc yells: "Keep your elbow in!"

The kid will be done for. He won't know what to think. There's no way that shot's going in.

Meanwhile, Doc will prove once and for all where his basketball loyalties lie, and set the wheels in motion on Austin's eventual Celtics debut.

Come on, you know it's coming.

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

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
 
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
 
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
 
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
 
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
 
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
 
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
 
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
 
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
 
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
 
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
 
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
 
It’s hunger.
 
It’s effort.
 
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
 
It makes you soft.
 
It makes you fat and happy.
 
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
 
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
 
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
 
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
 
Not anymore.
 
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
 
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
 
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
 
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
 
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
 
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
 
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
 
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
 
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.