Give Austin Rivers credit. At least he’s self aware.
The fourth-year guard has been a lightning rod for criticism at each stage of his basketball career. As the son of perhaps the league’s most recognizable coach, Rivers was subject to scrutiny throughout adolescence. As the top-ranked player in his high school recruiting class, he garnered the opponent’s best shot every night. As a star freshman for Duke University, he drew harsh critiques for failing to live up to sky-high expectations.
Such is life for hoops royalty.
After a dismal NBA debut for the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012-13, though, Rivers suddenly found himself out of the limelight. The immense promise of Anthony Davis deflected attention from the struggling combo guard; his first two seasons were certainly discouraging, but at least he endured them without becoming prey of national pundits.
That all changed a year ago, when Rivers was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers – his father’s franchise, of course – and again became the butt of basketball jokes. No matter, though – they were barely heard amid the public’s palpable and ongoing disdain for the league’s most disliked squad.
And though Rivers recently told The Jim Rome Show he’s not exactly sure why the Clippers inspire so much ire, his theory behind it certainly makes a lot of sense.
“For one, if I had to choose a reason, a lot of times people feel like our team complains a lot, you know what I mean? So I think that’s where it started, where I think we’ve gotten a lot better at that, but a couple years ago, I think that’s where it started,” Rivers said. “I think the second and most important reason is I think when Chris [Paul] came here, and we had DJ [Deandre Jordan] and Blake [Griffin] and all these guys, everybody kind of jumped on that wagon, you know what I mean, as far as we were going to win that year and they don’t understand it takes time. So when we didn’t win, but we got a lot of hoopla or hype and ‘Lob City’ and all this stuff and we didn’t win and when people would dunk, we’d be jumping around everywhere and going crazy, but we didn’t win a championship. That rubs people the wrong way.”
The 23-year-old equates his team’s penchant for in-game celebrating with that of the Golden State Warriors. One key difference: Los Angeles has yet to advance to the Western Conference Finals, let alone win a title. Regardless, Rivers isn’t apologizing for the Clippers’ “love of the game.”
“I think that’s why people get irritated with us, because they’re like, you got to win first, but our defense is like, we just love playing the game and we’re excited when somebody does something special and were not doing anything anybody else is doing. Its just we got a lot of hoopla, and that’s where I think a lot of the hatred comes from.”
This is all pretty fair.
Los Angeles produces as many highlight-reel plays as any team in the league, and routinely reacts with excitement of one who doesn’t. Chris Paul is the league’s foremost manipulator of officials, and the Clippers’ bandwagon indeed grew full after the rise of Blake Griffin and acquisition of their superstar floor general.
Those realities, coupled with its lack of postseason success, combines to make Los Angeles an easy group to root against. Not that Rivers and the rest seem to care, though; they’re far more worried with breaking the perceived Clipper Curse than engendering support from fans across the NBA.
(Via The Jim Rome Show)