Doc and Austin Rivers will be quite an NBA case study for Clippers

Doc Rivers suddenly finds himself in the position of coaching his son Austin.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Like father, like son.

Doc Rivers and his son will be sitting on the same bench now, in an unprecedented situation in the NBA, after the Clippers traded for Austin Rivers in a three-team deal that sent Reggie Bullock to Phoenix and Chris Douglas-Roberts and a 2017 second-round pick to Boston, the team announced Thursday.

Austin Rivers will become the first NBA player to play for his father, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

There have been a few cases of sons playing for fathers in professional sports, and it almost came to fruition in the NBA in Denver in 2010 when Coby Karl was with the Nuggets. His dad, George Karl, was coach but was on leave due to his battle with throat cancer, so Coby never played for him.

Doc Rivers is not only head coach of the Clippers but also senior vice president of basketball operations, so he made the deal happen. Until recently, the two had said they wouldn’t want to be on the same team. But after reports surfaced that the Clippers were interested in a trade for Austin, Doc said he wouldn’t be opposed to it.

The Clippers played Austin and the Pelicans on Dec. 6 at Staples Center, with the Rivers playing as a reserve guard.

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At the time, Doc told FOXSportsWest.com that he was most proud of his son because "he keeps growing. What people forget about Austin is he’s only 22, and it’s his third year in the NBA. He’s starting to play a lot better. I think he’s going to have a really great career. I’m proud he’s stayed grounded through it all."

This will be an interesting case study in family dynamics in professional sports.

Doc believes in his son, and perhaps that confidence will help Austin turn a corner in his young career. He’s averaging 6.9 points, 2.3 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 21.4 minutes, and the Pelicans had decided not to pick up the option on Rivers’ contract this season.

Austin, a 6-foot-4 guard, has been trying to make his own way and his own name. When asked about playing against his father, he said it was more about playing against the Clippers’ superstars.   

"It’s a playoff championship-caliber team, in L.A., bright lights," Austin said before the matchup against the Clippers. "You can keep going. That’s what I look forward to. The whole father-son thing, I already dealt with that my rookie year. Already got that out of my system. I could really care less about that. I’m not going against him. He’s a coach. It’s not weird for me at all, to be honest with you."

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Austin will be able to learn under the tutelage of All-Star point guard Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick, who like Austin played at Duke. DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Co. like to have fun and joke around, which means Austin should have no problem fitting in around the Clippers locker room.

Doc recently was asked if he would show favoritism to his son if Austin ever played for him. He laughed it off and said, "I’d probably show favoritism to Blake and Chris. I love my son, but I think I’m still going to favor Blake and Chris."

Austin Rivers will be competing for time off the Clippers’ bench, and the bench desperately needed change. Doc Rivers has used a very short bench this season because the reserves haven’t be trusted to hold leads. With the exception of Crawford, the NBA’s reigning sixth man of the year, the bench showed that it could become a liability in the postseason if not upgraded.

To make room for Rivers, the Clippers reportedly are buying out Jordan Farmar, who was mostly unimpressive as a backup point guard.

Austin Rivers has dealt with growing up in his father’s shadow his entire life, and when he was drafted with the 10th overall pick by New Orleans in 2012, he said: "I want to be like my dad, only better."

Doc surely knows what buttons he can and can’t push with his son. And Austin surely knows the same with his father.

How Doc uses his son and how Austin Rivers to a change of scenery — especially with much of the Rivers family in Southern California now since Spencer Rivers is a walk-on at UC Irvine — remains to be seen.  

But this will be an interesting case study on whether the family that plays together stays together.