The New York Knicks have Doc Rivers to think for Austin Rivers’ services

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers
Aug 12, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers (25) dribbles the ball against Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo (4) in the second quarter of a NBA basketball game at AdventHealth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks didn’t have much appeal this past off-season, and with training camp underway, it seems like the current roster will likely be similar to their opening game unit.

One thing is for sure, the Knicks have bolstered their team with plenty of guards, despite not picking one with quality options on the board. Instead, they selected Obi Toppin with the eighth overall pick, passing on a bevy of likely upgrades at PG.

They settled for Immanuel Quickley with the 25th pick, and while some argue he can be a point guard in the NBA, he is more of a shooting guard who can spread the floor and move well in transition.

That leads us to Austin Rivers, who represents a solid shooting guard the Knicks tried to sign back in 2015. However, his father, Doc Rivers, finally convinced his son to join the ranks in New York under head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“He was high on Philly’s list before I took the job,’’ Doc Rivers said, per the New York Post. “It was one of the guards they wanted. When I took the job, I said, ‘You don’t want that. You got too many other things we have to deal with.’ For Austin it’s better. He’s his own player. Unfortunately for him, me being the dad, he’s just an easy guy to target. I have felt since the separation, it’s been really good for him.’’

Rivers will have a fantastic opportunity to compete for starting minutes with the Knicks, who don’t have a solidified roster at this point. Last season with the Houston Rockets, Rivers averaged 8.8 points, 1.7 assists, and 2.6 total rebounds on 23.4 minutes per game. He’s not much of an assist-man, which suggests he better fits a shooting guard mold than point guard. He did average .421 from the floor and .356 from three.

“I kept telling him, ‘New York is a great place,’’’ Doc Rivers said. “I had a great experience there. That’s what I shared with him. It’s a tough city — in a positive way. He said, ‘What do you mean by that?’ I said, ‘It’s similar to Boston and Philly. Their fans are real. They want you to play hard, give you everything you can and play like a team.’ I told him, ‘The Knicks fans are still Red Holzman’s Knicks fans. They remember how that basketball was played. They want team basketball, hard-nosed, tough basketball.’”

If there’s one thing Rivers got right, it is that the fans demand more from an organization that has been embarrassing the last decade or so.

Knicks fans are tired of waiting around for the team to turn a corner; while other New York sports are on the rise, the team seems to find ways to fall behind.

Securing Thibodeau as their next head coach is a big deal, and new president Leon Rose has focused on acquiring draft selections for the future. It finally seems as if the Knicks are headed in a direction that doesn’t include stumbling five steps backward. They are setting themselves up for the future and the acquisition of big-name talents.

As for Thibodeau, his primary goal is to field a team that is capable of winning games, regardless of young player development and progression. He is not here to play babysitter but help develop players while winning in the NBA.

“Tom just likes competitive players — always has,’’ Doc Rivers said. “We’re very similar — give us 12 competitors, we’ll figure it out. Whenever we talked about Austin — and we will a lot less now — Thibs loves competitors.’’