Weakside Eyes: The Legend of Austin Rivers

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Published: April 17, 2014

I dunno know what the answer is. There’s something ’bout his game dat doesn’t make my eyes feel good

–Lenny the Cabbie

Since Jrue Holiday went down with an injury, the point guard debate has caused families to engage in dinner hour food fights. The surprise in all of this is the fact that I was surprised that families still dine together. Who would be the point guard that can play-make the Pelicans to a sort of respectable offensive structure?

Let’s jump into the Austin Rivers eye test and see what we see.

First, shall we look at some basic numbers over the last ten games? Why not!

Last 10 games (averages):

  • 29.1 minutes per game
  • 11.7 points per game
  • 4.9 assists per game, 1.9 turnovers per game
  • 4.0 defensive rebounds per game, 0.9 steals per game
  • 41% shooting
  • 2.2/3.8 = 58% free throws (painful for a point guard)
  • 0.9/1.8 = 50% three point percentage (perhaps misleading because there aren’t enough attempts (18))

Last 5 games (averages):

  • 34.7 minutes per game
  • 14.8 points per game
  • 5.8 assists per game, 1.4 turnovers per game
  • 5.8 defensive rebounds per game, 1.0 steals per game
  • 42% shooting
  • 2.4/4.0 = 60% free throws

I’ve listed some basic numbers without going off the deep end. I took those stats and filtered them through my eye test.

  • Rivers’ game has not yet evolved. He is still stuck in the “when to pass and when to shoot” quandary. The great Oscar Robertson in an interview I did with him a few years ago said, “The toughest thing a player has to learn is when to pass and when to shoot.” Robertson when on to explain how that plays a tremendous part in a player understanding his role.
  • Rivers does have basketball talent, and his what seems to be a stiff style may cause some people to tag him with an unfair label. What is obvious is the lack of a consistent jump shot and a not being very reliable free throw shooter . . . jumper is wood-like rigid.
  • Rivers has shown improvement in getting into the lane (penetration skills have gotten better), yet he is still lacking the “finishing touch” when maneuvering in a defensive maze . . . that can be improved upon in time.
  • Rivers is a point A to point B point guard. He is not yet a creative guard who sees situations develop which hampers his play-making ability. He misses out (or does he fail to see) moments in the game when scoring passes are there.
  • As a defender he is better on the initial defensive assignment (the early stages of the pick and roll is one example). As the action evolves and the ball movement begins, his defensive play begins to slip, and that’s when his concentration waivers. That can be improved upon, as well.

Required Summer Courses

  • Endless repetition shooting the ball
    • Off the dribble & catch
    • No free throws, no breakfeast (shoot plenty before you eat)
  • Watch game tape
  • Work on creative aspects of your game . . . passing . . . angles . . . reading the floor . . . advancing the ball . . . off the ball defense . . .

I am not bailing out on Rivers, as he is too young and maturity and emotional poise is something that usually arrives with experience. Dinner conversations with his Dad will prove to be more significant this summer.

Let’s wait for the Rivers to hit high tide before we abandon ship.

A last note regarding maturity: Rivers allowed himself to be suckered in a mini rumble with Nick Collison in Monday’s game, which was another example of his immaturity. He forgot his team was depleted at the point guard position. Rivers should have ignored the shove that happened in transition and played on. He selected the “bad hombre” approach and cost the team needed depth. I realize the team won and Tyreke Evans was superb, but the lesson was missed by Rivers.


Gerry V is a 21-year NBA analyst, 17-year talk radio host, a 16-year coach . . . also hosts “Gerry V’s “Talk Back Live on 99.5 WRNO New Orleans right after every Saints Sunday Game. Follow Gerry V on twitter (@GVTalk).

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