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Boston's Doc Rivers loses to son Austin, Hornets

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Boston's Doc Rivers loses to son Austin, Hornets

BOSTON (AP) Austin Rivers had been looking forward to this game since he was drafted 10th overall by the New Orleans Hornets.

Doc Rivers had been dreading it almost as long.

The Hornets rookie visited Boston on Wednesday night to face his father's team, just the fourth father to coach against his son in an NBA game.

``It's something I really did not look forward to,'' Doc Rivers said before the Hornets' 90-78 victory. ``You're trying to win a game and you're trying to win a game that your son is playing in. You raise your kid; you want them to do well. It's strange.''

The Rivers are the fourth father-son pair to face each other in an NBA game.

Denver Nuggets coach George Karl faced his son, Los Angeles Lakers guard Coby Karl, in 2007-08 and again in the playoffs that season. Mike Dunleavy Sr. was coaching the Clippers in 2003 when they faced his son, Mike Jr., and the Golden State Warriors. In 1976, Jan van Breda Kolff played for the Nets against his father, Butch von Breda Kolff, and the New Orleans Jazz.

``I'll enjoy it more maybe later,'' Doc Rivers said. ``Hopefully he will have bigger days. But for me, it will be special.''

Most of the Rivers family was in Boston for the event, including Doc's wife and Austin's mom, Kristen. Doc Rivers said he was the one who had to take care of tickets for the family, ``so he had to do nothing.''

Still, Austin Rivers was confident he knew whom his mother was rooting for.

``Me,'' he said with a mischievous smile. ``Because she loves me more.''

Doc Rivers was an NBA star himself, mostly for the Atlanta Hawks during a 13-year career from 1983-96. Austin Rivers, who was born in 1992, grew up hanging around the NBA, especially since his father became a coach in Orlando and Boston.

``I think a lot of guys or a lot of people try to hide the fact that they're going against a team that they know very well, or when they go against their father, they try to pretend it's a normal game. It's pretty much impossible to do that so I just try to treat it as it is,'' he said.

``I'm just going to have fun with it. This is a fun chance, you know. I'm more excited to play against a playoff-caliber team, a Hall of Fame team, that's why I'm just really excited to go out there and compete tonight, and just have fun in the game whether things are going well or not, and hopefully we will win.''

The younger Rivers acknowledged that it might not be so fun for his dad.

``He has to balance more than I do,'' Austin Rivers said. ``I just have to go out there and play my best and help my team win, where as he has to go out there and try to game plan against me and then he wants to be happy for me at the same time. So he kind of has a double-edged sword for him, whereas for me I just go out there and play.

``I'm sure he doesn't really like all this, so I know he's waiting for this night to be over with, whereas for me, I'm waiting for it to get started.''

The two spoke briefly during pregame warmups, and Austin Rivers got a big cheer from the opposing crowd when he checked into the game with 4:19 left in the first half. Doc Rivers leaned back to say something to the assistant coaches sitting behind him and cracked a brief smile.

Austin Rivers spent much of his first stint on the court staking out a position on the right side, which placed him in front of the Celtics' bench; there was no interaction with his father's team. With about a minute left in first quarter, he muscled a hook shot in for a basket, but his father had no reaction.

Austin Rivers finished with eight points in 22 minutes.

Austin Rivers, who said he has been able to beat his father one-on-one since the eighth or ninth grade, said it was easier because his dad wasn't on the court.

``It's not as crazy as it seems, `cause he's a coach,'' he said. ``I'm not playing against him, you know, he's just coaching. It would be one thing if he was somehow still playing.''

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Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced to 14 games by neutral arbitrator

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USA TODAY Sports

Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced to 14 games by neutral arbitrator

Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension has been reduced to 14 games by a neutral arbitrator meaning he is eligible to return as early as Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the arbitrator’s decision.

Wilson was suspended 20 games for a hit to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason. The suspension was announced on Oct. 3 and upheld by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Wilson’s first appeal.

Though the second appeal was technically successful in getting the suspension reduced, the lengthy process ended up costing him an extra two games as the Caps are already 16 games into the season. The good news for him is that he will recoup $378,048.78 of the over $1.2 million he was originally due to forfeit as a result of the suspension.

This marks the second suspension that Shyam Das, the neutral arbitrator, has reduced this season. Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson was suspended 27 games for domestic assault, but had his suspension reduced to 18 games after taking his appeal to the neutral arbitrator.

Tuesday’s ruling may mark the end of Wilson’s suspension and of the appeals process, but it hardly marks the end of the entire saga and controversy surrounding Wilson and his style of play. A 14-game suspension is still significant and should not be seen as vindication that Wilson did nothing wrong in the eyes of the league.

If there is another suspension, it will be longer and neither Wilson nor the Caps can afford for that to happen. Wilson still must change the way he plays or everyone is going to end up going through this entire process again and nobody wants that.

The Caps will have a morning skate at 12:30 p.m. ET which should provide more clarity on whether Todd Reirden intends to play Wilson immediately and where he could slot into the lineup.

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What do the Capitals do with Jakub Vrana?

What do the Capitals do with Jakub Vrana?

You don’t have to watch Jakub Vrana very long to realize just how talented he is. Unfortunately for him, you also don’t have to watch very long to realize how turnover prone he can be as well.

Carelessness with puck management has been one of the glaring issues for the Caps in the early season and Vrana, as he has been for much of his young career, is certainly guilty of that.

Vrana’s combination of talent and penchant for on-ice mistakes presents a problem for head coach Todd Reirden as he has to find the right place plug him into the lineup. That challenge has thus far proven difficult.

Vrana entered the Nov. 3 game against the Dallas Stars on the top line.  After a minus-three game and a turnover in overtime that led to Dallas’ game-winning goal, he found himself on the fourth line the very next game with barely eight minutes of ice time.

“We'll continue to try to remove those glaring turnovers or defense mistakes from his game,” Reirden said recently. “I think it's something that has improved compared to prior years which is why he spent the majority of the time up with those top-six guys, but it's sometimes good for a reset with some of the bottom-six guys and then start slotting him back in.”

At 22-years-old, mistakes on the ice are to be expected. But Vrana may take that to the extreme.

Not only does Vrana commit a lot of careless turnovers, he is also guilty of taking far too many penalties. Vrana ranks third on the team with 14 penalty minutes.

Mistakes by a forward are not nearly as glaring to a coach as those by a defensemen considering the mistakes tend to happen in the offensive zone and are less likely to result in a goal for the other team. When those offensive zone mistakes lead to offensive zone penalties, however, that’s a different story.

But Vrana is simply too skilled to bury in the lineup or take out altogether. With four even-strength goals, Vrana is tied for the third-most on the team behind only T.J. Oshie (7) and Alex Ovechkin (6). Of all the forwards Reirden has cycled into the top line in Tom Wilson’s absence to play with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vrana was the player who seemed to fit the best. He does not provide the same sort of defensive balance to the top line as Wilson does, but no one has been able to step in and adequately fill Wilson’s spot thus far. Vrana added an extra element of speed and offensive skill to an already dangerous line and seemed to show chemistry with Kuznetsov especially.

“There's some really good things that he's showing,” Reirden said. “The speed he plays with, the release of his shot, the chances he's getting, you've got to try to find ways to get him out there more.”

But Wilson will soon return to fill his top line role and Reirden will soon get his full lineup for the first time this season. Yet, almost a quarter into the season Vrana still makes it hard to find the right spot for him.

Putting Vrana on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Oshie – if Reirden reunites Ovechkin and Kuznetsov – seems like the best fit. Backstrom and Oshie can make up for Vrana’s defensive issues and Vrana can provide speed on an otherwise slower line.

But at some point, Vrana has to cut back on the turnovers and the penalties.

“You've got to continue to show him,” Reirden said. “Continue to show him, continue to `remind him, continue to teach and help him grow and get better. That's a young player trying to become a top-six full time.”

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