Austin Rivers’ Natural Tenacity on the Court Comes From a Surprising Source

Over the course of eight NBA seasons, Austin Rivers proves to be a capable role player. The journeyman guard has logged time with four teams. He’s spent the last two seasons with the Houston Rockets, fitting in as a backup guard in coach Mike D’Antoni‘s high-paced three-point heavy offense.

Nonetheless, many NBA fans still aren’t acquainted with Rivers’ on-court accomplishments, let alone his background as the son of one of the better NBA coaches, Doc Rivers. Let’s look at what Rivers has achieved, some of his worst injuries, and the role his father played in his development.

Austin Rivers’ NBA career in a nutshell

The New Orleans Hornets selected Rivers with the 10th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft — the same draft that saw the Hornets obtain Anthony Davis. Rivers played 61 games his rookie season and started 26. He put up averages of 6.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 23.2 minutes per game, with a couple of bigger performances mixed in.

During the 2013-14 season, Rivers’ numbers improved, albeit marginally. Midway through his third season, New Orleans traded him as part of a deal with Boston. The Celtics then turned around and added Rivers to a package going to the Los Angeles Clippers, where Rivers’ father serves as coach.

Rivers’ seasons in LA were his most productive. His three-point shooting improved each year, from 30.9% in 2014-15 to 37.8% in 2017-18. That last year with the Clippers also saw Rivers average a career-high 15.1 points per game. In June 2018, the team traded Rivers to the Washington Wizards for center Marcin Gortat.

Rivers spent part of a season with the Wizards before being included in a trade with Phoenix. After the Suns waived Rivers, the Houston Rockets picked him up in December 2018. In Houston, the 27-year-old found a stable place backing up star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Rivers’ injury history

Though considered a fairly durable player, Rivers has struggled with injuries, reports Fox Sports. Shortly after being drafted by the Hornets, and before playing a single NBA game, Rivers had surgery to deal with bone spurs on his right ankle. Later in his rookie season, he broke his hand and needed season-ending surgery.

In February 2016, while a member of the Clippers, Rivers broke his hand and subsequently missed part of the season. A hamstring sidelined him toward the end of the next season. Then, in the 2017-18 season, Rivers missed 18 total games while dealing with a heel bruise. Fortunately, most of his injuries prove relatively minor.

The surprising source of Rivers’ tenacity

Aside from the skills that appear in a box score, Rivers’ game is defined by an unusual degree of toughness and tenacity. Simply put, he isn’t scared to go up against anybody in the league. The guard attributes that toughness to his father. In an interview with The Undefeated, Rivers said, “My dad also raised me how he was raised. My dad was raised in the streets of Chicago.”

Rivers also admitted, being Doc’s son, he gets perceived in a different way. To avoid the stigma of privilege, Rivers makes it a point to bring an extra degree of effort on the court. He wants other players to know he’s earned his role in the NBA through hard work and ability.

Some of Rivers’ tenacity likely stems from a desire to one-up his father. When he entered the NBA, Rivers went so far as to say, “I want to be like my dad, only better,” reports Fox Sports.

So how do Austin and Doc’s NBA careers stack up? As it turns out, Doc still has an edge on his son. The elder Rivers posted averages of 10.9 points, 5.7 assists, and three rebounds per game, while Rivers Jr. current sits at 9.1 points, 2.3 assists and 2.1 rebounds.