Blood is thicker than water — and basketball, too, apparently.
At least Los Angeles Clippers head coach and executive Doc Rivers seems to think so. The second-year man in Lob City traded for his son Austin Thursday. The younger Rivers is a fledgling third-year guard who’s played for the New Orleans Pelicans until this week.
In a flurry of swaps between the Clippers, Celtics, Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets — a sequence of barters that is frankly hard to keep track of, almost suggesting that front offices across the league are treating the wealth of NBA talent much like a commune does their food — the 22-year-old Rivers ends up on his father’s squad.
The move, rumored to be in the works all week, was reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein. “The trade,” Stein wrote, “will send Rivers to the Clippers, former L.A. first-round pick Reggie Bullock to the Suns and two players to the Celtics: Phoenix big man Shavlik Randolph and L.A. swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts.”
The father-son relationship hasn’t been seen on an NBA bench before. It’s statistically unlikely, for starters, but it also comes loaded with potential perils: Professional locker rooms are complicated enough places without making every day a “take your kid to work” day. While there could be benefits of Austin teaming up with Doc (the junior Rivers being a more effective player than the man he replaces, Jordan Farmer, for instance), there’s also a lot of risk in the move.
What if Austin’s dad begins playing favorites with his kin? Hopefully we don’t have to find out — and there’s a good chance we won’t, as there are more than enough reserve minutes to go around in Clippersland. This was exhibited clearly, in a recent cornerstone Clippers road victory, 100-94, over the excellent Portland Trail Blazers. Rivers didn’t play any of his starters for less than 35 minutes in the game, only going three deep on his bench, including a mere five-minute stint from Glen Davis.
If L.A.’s leading lineup is to stay fresh for the daunting Western Conference playoffs, they’ll need to find relief from any place they can. Rivers is right to take a gamble on his struggling son, who has showed glimpses of improvement this year. Austin just might prove to be a useful stop-gap piece in the lead-up to a postseason run.
— John Wilmes