Skip to content

In a crowded Pelicans backcourt, Austin Rivers wants to show he belongs

Jul 18, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT

Austin Rivers Summer League AP

LAS VEGAS — Austin Rivers’ poor start to last season got a lot of attention — he was genuinely awful. Historically awful. For the season he ended with a PER of 5.9, the kind of number that normally would suggest his next paycheck will come from Europe. It’s the worst PER ever for a rookie who played more than 1,000 minutes.

What wasn’t noticed is that at the end of the season he played better — in his last 20 games he shot 50 percent overall, 40 percent from three. He wasn’t scoring a lot, but you could see improvement.

“Last year was up and down for me, I didn’t have a great year,” Rivers said Thursday after the Pelicans were eliminated from the Summer League tournament. “That was tough, it was the first time in my life where everything wasn’t roses and success. I had to look in the mirror and be like, ‘What am I going to do? Listen I have to play better I got to figure something out.’

“Then bam I figured it out and I’m playing really well, and then I break my hand. I was like, ‘golly, what is going on I finally start playing well and my hand breaks. Then I was like this is a test, I’m going to rehab the heck out of my hand and come back even better.”

He’s looked better in Las Vegas — he averaged 17.3 points a game in the Pelicans first three games to lead the team and shot 46.5 percent. He had 16 points on Thursday, but on 5-of-14 shooting.

Thursday against the Nuggets he was attacking the rim — only 4 of his 14 shots were on the perimeter (1-of-4), half of them were in the restricted area (5-of-7) and he got to the line seven times. Finishing is one of the things he is doing better.

“My strength, I’ve gained seven pounds, guys aren’t able to post me up. I’m able to go to the rack and finish, I’m bumping guys off and able to get to that floater,” Rivers said. “On defense I can use my chest more.”

His decision making with the ball is improved, and his defense is improved (but has a ways to go). Rivers has a ways to go, but he’s taking steps.

All of which is to say, if you’ve written Rivers off you did it too soon. He is looking more like a guy who can play in the league.

The question is will he do that with the Pelicans? New Orleans had one of the most interesting summers out there and loaded up on talent in Rivers’ position.

Rivers is a point guard and the Pelicans got All-Star Jrue Holiday from Philadelphia (in exchange for Nerlens Noel, basically). Eric Gordon is healthy and at the two, but he can handle the ball. So can Tyreke Evans, who might play the three or be the sixth man.

Where does Rivers fit in that rotation? He doesn’t know, but he’s confident he does fit in.

“Jrue Holiday’s an unbelievable player, (Gordon) is an unbelievable player, (Evans) is a great player, but I believe I am too,” Rivers said. “And I’ve got to continue to work and just listen to my coaches and I know if I do that I’ll make time and have an unbelievable year next year.”

He sounds like a coach’s son. But that’s a good thing, the kind of thing that can help a guy get past a slow start to make a quality NBA career.

Latest Posts
  1. Rajon Rondo doesn’t rule out opening night return for Celtics

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:41 PM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    Broken hand is supposed to sideline Rondo for 6-8 weeks.

  2. K.J. McDaniels takes unique approach to rookie contract with Sixers

    Oct 1, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Getty Images

    Second round pick foregoing additional guaranteed dollars in order to bet on himself.

  3. Klay Thompson refutes report he was ‘pissed’ about being included in trade talks for Kevin Love

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT

    Klay Thompson Klay Thompson

    Reminder not to believe everything you read, especially if it’s attributed to ‘a source.’

  4. ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Charlotte Hornets

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Charlotte Hornets Media Day Charlotte Hornets Media Day

    The new-look Hornets, with Lance Stephenson in tow, are hoping to build on a playoff run and a promising young core.

  5. Kobe Bryant plans to play in all 8 preseason games for Lakers

    Oct 1, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Kobe wants to shake the rust off before the games count for real later this month.

  6. Kevin Durant compares shot selection to apple picking in latest Nike spot (VIDEO)

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT

    Kevin Durant AP

    “I approach scoring like apple picking,” says Durant. “Keep the good ones and leave the rotten ones.”

  7. Sixers reportedly waive Pierre Jackson

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Pierre Jackson AP

    Jackson is out for the season due to injury, but will be getting a nice payday from Philadelphia nonetheless.

  8. Cavaliers give sneak peek of new home court design (VIDEO)

    Oct 1, 2014, 12:06 AM EDT

    cavs court

    New floor should be in place for the start of the 2014-15 season.

  9. Nuggets mascot in trouble after making unauthorized appearance at GOP rally

    Sep 30, 2014, 10:51 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

    Professional sports franchises are businesses above all else, and typically would rather avoid politics.

  10. Tuesday And-1 Links: Rudy Gay, Kings not really talking next contract right now

    Sep 30, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Rudy Gay, Pete D'Alessandro, Michael Malone Rudy Gay, Pete D'Alessandro, Michael Malone

    Ben McLemore knows how to photobomb. His coach isn’t sure he can do much else.

  11. John Calipari hired someone to send NBA advanced stats of Kentucky’s players

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

    John Calipari John Calipari

    I don’t know whether this helps Kentucky’s players. It opens Calipari’s options, though.

  12. Former NBA player, current TNT analyst Kenny Smith gets reality show with family

    Sep 30, 2014, 6:28 PM EDT

    Kenny Smith Getty Images

    Now we know what show promos TNT is going to beat us over the head with during the next playoffs.

  13. ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Miami Heat

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT

    Chris Bosh Chris Bosh

    Expectations are reduced, but Miami still has the chance to be pretty a pretty good team — even without LeBron James.

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. James (3861)
  2. R. Rondo (3541)
  3. K. Bryant (3532)
  4. R. Allen (2504)
  5. D. Wade (2455)
  1. D. Williams (2310)
  2. K. Leonard (2074)
  3. D. Rose (2072)
  4. N. Noel (2019)
  5. E. Bledsoe (2002)