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Published September 12, 2015
Austin Rivers had been looking forward to this game since he was drafted 10th overall by the New Orleans Hornets.
Doc Rivers had been dreading it almost as long.
The Hornets rookie visited Boston on Wednesday night to face his father's team, just the fourth father to coach against his son in an NBA game.
"It's something I really did not look forward to," Doc Rivers said before the Hornets' 90-78 victory. "You're trying to win a game and you're trying to win a game that your son is playing in. You raise your kid; you want them to do well. It's strange."
The Rivers are the fourth father-son pair to face each other in an NBA game.
Denver Nuggets coach George Karl faced his son, Los Angeles Lakers guard Coby Karl, in 2007-08 and again in the playoffs that season. Mike Dunleavy Sr. was coaching the Clippers in 2003 when they faced his son, Mike Jr., and the Golden State Warriors. In 1976, Jan van Breda Kolff played for the Nets against his father, Butch von Breda Kolff, and the New Orleans Jazz.
"I'll enjoy it more maybe later," Doc Rivers said. "Hopefully he will have bigger days. But for me, it will be special."
Most of the Rivers family was in Boston for the event, including Doc's wife and Austin's mom, Kristen. Doc Rivers said he was the one who had to take care of tickets for the family, "so he had to do nothing."
Still, Austin Rivers was confident he knew whom his mother was rooting for.
"Me," he said with a mischievous smile. "Because she loves me more."
Doc Rivers was an NBA star himself, mostly for the Atlanta Hawks during a 13-year career from 1983-96. Austin Rivers, who was born in 1992, grew up hanging around the NBA, especially since his father became a coach in Orlando and Boston.
"I think a lot of guys or a lot of people try to hide the fact that they're going against a team that they know very well, or when they go against their father, they try to pretend it's a normal game. It's pretty much impossible to do that so I just try to treat it as it is," he said.
"I'm just going to have fun with it. This is a fun chance, you know. I'm more excited to play against a playoff-caliber team, a Hall of Fame team, that's why I'm just really excited to go out there and compete tonight, and just have fun in the game whether things are going well or not, and hopefully we will win."
The younger Rivers acknowledged that it might not be so fun for his dad.
"He has to balance more than I do," Austin Rivers said. "I just have to go out there and play my best and help my team win, where as he has to go out there and try to game plan against me and then he wants to be happy for me at the same time. So he kind of has a double-edged sword for him, whereas for me I just go out there and play.
"I'm sure he doesn't really like all this, so I know he's waiting for this night to be over with, whereas for me, I'm waiting for it to get started."
The two spoke briefly during pregame warmups, and Austin Rivers got a big cheer from the opposing crowd when he checked into the game with 4:19 left in the first half. Doc Rivers leaned back to say something to the assistant coaches sitting behind him and cracked a brief smile.
Austin Rivers spent much of his first stint on the court staking out a position on the right side, which placed him in front of the Celtics' bench; there was no interaction with his father's team. With about a minute left in first quarter, he muscled a hook shot in for a basket, but his father had no reaction.
Austin Rivers finished with eight points in 22 minutes.
Austin Rivers, who said he has been able to beat his father one-on-one since the eighth or ninth grade, said it was easier because his dad wasn't on the court.
"It's not as crazy as it seems, 'cause he's a coach," he said. "I'm not playing against him, you know, he's just coaching. It would be one thing if he was somehow still playing."