If Austin Rivers is trending on Twitter it’s because (a) he did something against type like making 45% of his shots, or, (b) he said something so ridiculously stupid it was hilarious and had to be retweeted over and over again. Of course, it was (b). It was Austin Rivers, what did you expect?
Forget the most compelling news coming out of USA Basketball was the possibility of Kobe Bryant in Rio in 2016, a dissatisified Austin Rivers had to change the narrative and tweet this:
“Straight up better than a lot of those dudes playing last night…Have to prove that this year..”
There are so many rules of professionalism and courtesy Rivers trampled all over on like a wild herd of buffalo looking for deer meat. Let’s say it’s true that Austin Rivers is better- and only an inebriated someone with a few too many cold ones swishing around in their blood would agree to that- professional behavior requires he not shout it from the rooftops but rather show it on the court. There is such a thing as humility and grace. The greatest competitors in NBA history, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson knew they were better than almost everyone they were playing against but didn’t stand in Times Square with a sign telling everyone about it. They proved it.
Rivers is getting a little too cocky because he had one good game against the Houston Rockets and one good game against the San Antonio Spurs. How about 82 good games? How about being a lottery pick that plays more like the #10 pick in the draft and not a second round pick. How about the perception he’s Doc Rivers son so he gets a pass other players wouldn’t. When much is given, much is expected: does Austin Rivers even know what that means?
But let’s go to the merits of his case, that he’s better than a lot of those dudes. Forget the stars. Is he better than Tobias Harris? Hell, no. Victor Oladipo? Oladipo averaged 17 points last year while Rivers averaged 7. Mason Plumlee? No and that’s a Duke University cautionary tale, Plumlee being better than Rivers. So exactly what was Rivers watching?
Or, better yet what was he thinking.
Rivers is a better than average perimeter defender. His lateral quickness is good, he plays hard on the defensive end and with intensity. His offense is the problem. He shot 27% on mid range shots, 30% on long two’s and 29% from three. He can attack the rim and finish using his quickness but that’s the sum total of his game after three NBA seasons. He’s never averaged more than 7 points a game, played more than 23 minutes, or made 41% of his shots. He’s been blah for much of his career, despite his imaginary thinking that he’s better than the best the NBA has to offer in USA Basketball.
Rivers is a role player, a decent defender, the coach’s son, a Dukie who has yet to establish himself as anything other than a bench guy who can do a couple of things. Every time he goes up against one of those USA Basketball players he dissed, they are going to want to humiliate him because the thing about trash talking is that you have to back it up or else you just look stupid.
The tweet fallout caused Rivers to backtrack and reassess. He didn’t apologize to USA Basketball for saying they are a bunch of scrubs, but he did clarify:
“Didn’t really mean it that way…I worded it wrong..it was me just being competitive and wanting to be out there…”
But as Kobe Bryant reiterated over the weekend about Team USA, you earn it. You earn your way onto the court by being one of the best.
photo via commons.wikimedia.org