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.
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.