LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) - Austin Rivers has gone from the ‘coach’s kid’ to proving he belongs with the championship contending Los Angeles Clippers.
A flurry of jump shots and a blur of drives to the basket sparked the coach’s son to 15 of his playoff-high 25 points during a defining third quarter as the Clippers beat the Houston Rockets on Friday.
The performance left the Staples Center crowd chanting Austin’s name and his father and coach, Doc Rivers, suppressing a smile as the Clippers took a 2-1 lead in their best of seven Western Conference semi-final series.
The teams play again on Sunday in Los Angeles. “It was so much fun out there,” the younger Austin, a guard, said after coming off the bench. “I’ve worked so hard this summer and this season with (Doc) and my team mates. I have to keep going and never get too high or too low.” His outburst was an undeniable high, so much so that Clippers point guard Chris Paul approached Doc Rivers and told him he had permission to be a dad and not just the team’s coach. “I told him ‘you can put the other hat on for a second,’ ” Paul said.
“You see that during the game and (I thought about my own parents). As a team we talk about it all the time – it has to be an odd dynamic to be coach, dad and son.” That dynamic is one they have tried to downplay since the Clippers acquired Austin in a January deal with New Orleans. He became the first player in NBA history to play for his father, and his performance has been a referendum on Doc’s decision to bring him on.
But until Friday the reviews had been mixed, as the 22-year-old guard can be unpredictable and erratic.
In the closing minute of a Game Two loss to the Rockets on Wednesday, Austin slipped and lost the ball on a play that led to taunts across the country.
But he has been pivotal in the playoffs, averaging nine points and shooting 48 percent from the field.
He is gaining the confidence of his team and fan base, even if his coach is not willing to turn into a doting father just yet.
“Yeah, you want (Austin to do well) but they’re all my sons,” Doc Rivers said.
Editing by Gene Cherry