If nothing else can be said about Tom Thibodeau, the man is consistent. Prior to the Bulls loss Saturday night to the Hornets, the coach was asked if hed take it easy on New Orleans rookie Austin Rivers, the son of his friend and former boss, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.
Shoot, Thibodeau responded, dragging out the word with a wry smile creeping onto his face. Hes a very gifted player and actually, his floor game has been very, very impressive. Hes dangerous with the ball, gives them a second guy that can break you down off the pick-and-roll.
Hes a great kid, the coach continued. In Boston, he was around the team a lot and he had a lot of confidence and poise, and very comfortable being on the floor against pros, even when he was in high school. So, hes been around the pro game his whole life. I think hes going to be a terrific player.
The younger Rivers was considered a top high-school prospect from an early age, then went on to have a lead role at Duke in his lone college season before being picked by the Hornets in the lottery. Despite being overshadowed by top overall pick Anthony Davis, the scoring combo guard has attracted plenty of attention.
Doc starred for Proviso East High School in nearby Maywood, Ill., before going to Marquette, then having a stellar NBA career and moving on to the coaching ranks. While Austin was raised in Orlando, where Doc coached the Magic, he still has plenty of ties to Chicago, just like teammate and Windy City native Davis, who missed Saturdays contest after suffering a concussion Friday.
It was amazing. I was here a couple years ago, for the McDonalds high school All-American game and Ive just been around here all my life because this is where my familys fromI had like eight relatives in the stands tonightso it was good to come out here and play well, and more importantly, get a win. This was a back-to-back game, on the road versus the Bulls. That shows what were capable of and how good we can be, Rivers said afterwards. Its tough, but we dont have Eric Gordon, the Hornets injured shooting guard, who was on the bench in street clothes after visiting a Chicago knee specialist or Ant. When you dont have two guys like that with you, it makes it tough.
I knew it was going to be tough and every point that I got tonight was tough. I had to work for it, continued the rookie, who scored nine points against Thibodeaus defense, something hes watched from afar for years. I thought we won the game today with our defense. To hold the Bulls, who execute really good in Chicago, to 82 points, thats pretty good.
Its getting better and better. If you look at my first game to my second game to tonight, I think Im getting better and better, and Ill continue to do that just because Ill be smarter. Its been a blast, he went on to say. For us to hold the Bulls to 82 points in Chicago off a back-to-back game, it shows our defensive capability and when we play that way, our offense will always be fine. We could be having an off night, but if we play defense like that, we still can win.
Its an adjustment and tonight I didnt shoot it my bestI havent shot the ball well, but its only been three games.