It was about 75 minutes before tipoff when DeAndre Jordan squeezed his lengthy frame into a folding chair next to Austin Rivers in the Clippers’ locker room.
Jordan’s message to his new teammate was direct. Be aggressive. Don’t worry about anything else. It’s just basketball.
“He said, ‘We don’t care if you go one for eight,’” Rivers said, recalling Jordan’s words, “because that’s just basketball.’”
That was a theme Rivers seemed to adopt going into his second game as a Clipper, on Saturday night against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena. He was unhappy with a debut in which he had gone scoreless in 12 minutes, missing all four of his shots while becoming the first person in NBA history to play for his father, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers.
“I’m over it,” Austin Rivers said before the game against the Kings, which ended too late for this edition. “[Friday] night was about the son thing and I’m done with that. Now it’s basketball for me.”
Rivers was certainly more assertive in his eight first-half minutes, twice driving toward the basket for contested shots that missed and playing lockdown defense as the teams battled to a 52-52 halftime tie.
The younger Rivers said he thought the father-son story line would “blow over” in three to four days, but it was a hot topic again Saturday.
Doc Rivers seemed mildly irritated when asked if the last 48 hours had been difficult for the Rivers household, the implication being that things could get awkward if Austin Rivers doesn’t play well.
“No,” Doc Rivers said. “What’s hard? He’s playing in the NBA and in an NBA game. What the hell is hard about that? I mean, really. I mean, honestly, I think you guys can make a big deal about it all you want. The family’s not. They come to every game.
“Now, for me, it’s easier. I don’t have to watch two teams play. I can watch one team play and it’s a lot easier for me. It’s funny, after the game [Friday], the difference was Austin was already in the locker room and I didn’t have to go down and see him.”
Doc Rivers said he was more concerned about his team’s defense the previous night, when it surrendered 126 points in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, than his son’s poor showing in his first game since being acquired in a trade with the Boston Celtics.
Austin Rivers, who missed all three of his shots and one of two free throws to finish with one point in 15 1/2 minutes of play Saturday, said he hadn’t had a sitdown with his father to talk about how to handle the family dynamic, and he didn’t believe there was a need to do so.
“Me and my dad have that relationship already where it’s strictly professional,” said Austin Rivers, who also had three rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot Saturday. “It’s like, it is what it is. There’s really no difference.”
Rivers said he didn’t feel any stress because he would be expected to play only 15 to 20 minutes a game and his performance in January would be long forgotten by playoff time.
“People aren’t looking at what I do now, they’re looking at the outcome at the end of the year,” said Rivers, who is not under contract past this season, “so really I have no pressure on me.”