Amid overlapping careers during a combined 71 NBA seasons, Doc Rivers and his son, Austin, and Dell Curry and his sons, Seth and Stephen, had spent many tense moments together.
Last May they found themselves together again. This time it was in a hospital as they awaited the birth of a baby — the daughter of Seth Curry and Rivers’ daughter, Callie.
“‘I haven’t felt pressure like this in a long time,’” Doc Rivers recalled the doctor telling the room.
The baby soon arrived, and seven months later so did a road trip unlike any of the other thousand-plus that Doc Rivers has taken since his rookie season in 1983. When Rivers stepped off the Clippers’ charter flight in Portland on Wednesday afternoon, he was their head coach.
Within hours his title had changed.
“To Carter,” Seth Curry said of his infant daughter, “he’s just Papa Doc.”
“I’m sure he’s going to spoil her a little more the older she gets with more stuff she can play with and have, but he’s been great,” Curry said. “He’s had a lot of energy around her. You just see how much he loves his grandkids.”
The trip marked the first of three Clippers road games this season in which Rivers will serve as both grandfather and coach. Austin Rivers, the former Clippers guard traded to Washington, became a father to a son during the summer, and the Clippers will travel to face the Wizards on Nov. 20. Five days later, the Clippers play in Portland again.
Rivers has enjoyed coaching these Clippers (6-5) because he sees part of his personality in a team that is learning more about itself with every passing day. He has enjoyed being a grandparent for many of the same reasons.
“I can’t wait to get off the plane and go see my daughter,” Rivers said, two days before flying to Portland. “Usually I would be thinking, ‘Oh, what restaurant am I going to?’ It’s so much more important now because I get to see my granddaughter and that’s amazing — it just gives you a whole new life.”
Following the Wizards’ loss to the Clippers on Oct. 28, Austin Rivers said his father is “the same guy he was as a father” now as a grandfather. “Just trying to ask, ‘When is he going to start playing basketball?’”
Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors have been a constant thorn in the side of Doc Rivers’ Clippers, and Rivers has praised the two-time MVP as being well on his way to being an all-time great. Facing Seth — a career 43.4% three-point shooter — brings its own matchup troubles, but both sides are looking forward to future Blazers-Clippers meetings.
“Everything is interesting now with that,” Rivers said, smiling in his Staples Center office. “I jokingly said, ‘Man I should trade for Seth and Austin, I’d have the whole family together.’ I said that as a joke and then we both said no, none of us want that.”
Rivers spent his Wednesday evening in Portland visiting with his daughter, granddaughter and Seth Curry. The next night, he faced Curry on the court. Colleagues and players have called Rivers an incessant film-watcher and he prepared for the two-day stay by breaking down video, as usual.
But then, in a road-trip first, he planned to take a break and scroll through his phone’s photo album.
“It’s just nice,” he said, “to be able to sit on a plane and look at baby pictures.”
Rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored a career-high 19 points against Portland and left first-team all-NBA guard Damian Lillard impressed.
The Trail Blazers often tested Gilgeous-Alexander, either running him through off-the-ball screens while he guarded C.J. McCollum or trying to get him alone on isolation plays while he guarded Lillard. Gilgeous-Alexander wasn’t perfect — he finished with a team-worst plus/minus rating of minus-16 — but Lillard said he was struck by how the 20-year-old handled himself.
“I really like his demeanor and his mentality, just not backing down,” Lillard said. “He was steady, he was smart and you can tell they got a lot of faith in him, and he’s young. I think he has a really bright future.”
When: 12:30 p.m., Saturday
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570, 1330.
Update: Forward Luc Mbah a Moute (left knee soreness) and guard Avery Bradley (left ankle) have been upgraded to questionable to play against a team that ranks fifth in offensive rating and third in defensive rating. Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 25.6 points and 12.9 rebounds.