It is the day after Christmas and New Orleans coach Monty Williams is standing outside New Orleans' locker room in the Amway Center in Orlando when he is asked the inevitable question.
He gives the reporter a mockingly exasperated look as the question is formed -- even though this would be Austin Rivers' lone trip to his hometown of Orlando for the year.
"You haven’t read the script?" Williams asks. "There has been like 15 other articles about [Austin Rivers’ adjustment to the pros]. Is that the only thing you can come up with?"
Whether Williams likes it or not Austin Rivers has become a flashpoint and polarizing figure in the 2012 draft class. Rivers was tasked with being the point guard New Orleans paired up with top overall pick Anthony Davis. Davis has his outsized expectations, but also a little bit of an expectation that he needed time to develop and that his impact would not be immediatley felt. That and his injury hampered him in his rookie season.
No, Rivers came -- warranted or not -- with the promise that he would have the talent to make an immediate impact in the NBA. After a so-so year at Duke, it felt like his game was better fitted for the one-on-one style of the NBA rather than the team approach that a guy like Mike Krzyzewski demands.
The transition has not been easy for Rivers however. And that has been a source of frustration for everyone involved.
Rivers is averaging 6.5 points per game 25.9 minutes per game. He averages just 2.5 assists per game, is shooting 32.9 percent from the floor and 56.5 percent from the foul line. Posting a PER of 5.6 and a negative win shares were not part of the plan.
There is plenty of frustration from Rivers and from fans who want to see the Hornets build a young dynamic duo between the first and the 10th overall pick from this year's draft.
Monty Williams though continually preaches patience when it comes to Rivers and his development. He has the attitude to be an NBA player, now he just has to get the comfort and confidence.
"He is one of those guys who wants it so bad there are times he can get frustrated with not being Michael Jordan today," Williams said. "And that’s what I love about him. His competitive nature is off the chart. He is not afraid of any situation. He has had glimpses of the player that we think he is going to be in the future consistently. So I think his adjustment has been like any other young guy. But he has shown more flashes than most young guys.
"There are things in his game that you can’t teach – his ability to score, to play off the dribble and pass. He is tougher physically than I thought. He gets whacked going to the basket and it never bothers him at all. He just gets up and plays the game. It’s really early, you don’t want to make assessments of where he is after 20-plus games but we like what we see."
Clearly what they like about Rivers is more beneath the numbers in games than not. Because, frankly, Rivers' numbers are pretty bad. He does not quite have his father to ask for advice either, since his father is coaching the Celtics.
Everyone wants to see some improvement from Rivers as he gets to the middle of his first season.
The first thing to note is that Rivers is doing some very good things. Most of his shots entering Sunday's game against the Knicks come in the paint -- 145 of his 255 field goal attempts entering Sunday's game have come either at the rim or from 3-9 feet according to Basketball-Reference. The problem is, of course, that he is not making those shots. Of those 145 attempts, Rivers has made only 47 shots for a 32.4 percent field goal percentage. He is making only 41.3 percent of his shots at the rim.
That simply will not get the job done.
There are clearly other things Rivers can do while his shooting comes around and he finds his place offensively in the NBA. The thing is he is known as a scorer. That is what he was drafted to do. The fact that he is struggling with that very skill he supposedly already had is frustrating the observers who saw him as a building block.
Right now, though, it seems like Williams' analysis is correct. Rivers is pushing and pressing too much. He needs to let the game come to him rather than forcing his game. He no longer is the most talented player on the floor like he might have been in high school or in college.
Fortunately, Rivers has a lot of time to improve and get comfortable. He is a scant 34 games into his career.
Patience might be the best virtue when it comes to waiting on Rivers.
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