NEW YORK — The best thing about the NBA lockout for Austin Rivers was that it brought him even closer to his father.
Without the Boston Celtics to coach, Doc Rivers attended his son’s first eight games at Duke, including making that, ahem, tough trip to Maui.
“My first eight games he was at every single game front and center supporting me, which is really neat,” Austin said after scoring a team-best 18 points despite fouling out in No. 5 Duke’s 86-80 win over Washington on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
“I’ve never once been part of an NBA lockout, and the fact that my dad got to come to my games for once was pretty neat because he usually never got to. Back in my high school and my whole life, he’s come to one to three games a year.”
Still, Rivers said he’s “happy the NBA’s back” because his father was going stir crazy.
“Oh, yeah,” Austin said. “He said my mom said he was driving the house crazy, so I know probably my mom’s tired of him a little bit. All he does is golf anyway, so it’s not like he helps around the house….He’s been having a good time, but I know he’s glad to get back to work.”
Austin said his dad even consults him on potential Celtics moves.
“It’s all he’s been talking about is trades and getting back and asking my opinion about stuff,” Austin said.
Did dad consult Austin on the pending Big Baby sign-and-trade to the Orlando Magic that brought Boston back Brandon Bass?
“I didn’t tell him to trade ‘Big Baby.'” Rivers said. “I like the trade, though. I think Big Baby’s great. I think both of them are great players. I thought we were going to get the Chris Paul one, but he went to L.A., and I think they stopped that so I wonder what’s going to happen with that.”
Austin could be joining his father in the NBA next season.
DraftExpress.com projects the 6-4 freshman guard to go No. 17 overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, but he could go higher than that.
He’s currently averaging 15.8 points and is shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc (16-of-38).
“Rivers is improving every week,” one veteran NBA scout said (he cannot be quoted by name because NBA scouts are forbidden from publicly commenting on draft-eligible players). “He’s great off the bounce and is starting to calm down and is doing a better job of reading the defense.
“He’s a Top 10 pick.”
Another NBA scout suggested Rivers should spend a second year in college.
“Austin is an offensive-minded 2 guard who has the ability to get to the rim but still struggles with his consistency shooting the ball from the perimeter,” the second scout said. “He also needs to be a more committed defender. I think he came into the season as a one-and-done but should stay another year.”
In his first trip to the Garden last month, Rivers struggled and managed just five points on 1-of-7 shooting in a 74-69 victory over Michigan State.
The was the game in which Coach K surpassed Bob Knight as the winningest coach in Division 1 history, but you wouldn’t have known by Rivers’ expression after the game.
He looked like he had taken a beating, partly because he had a welt over his eye after getting hit on a drive to the basket.
“I think that game I was still finding myself whereas after Maui I kind of found myself as a player,” he said. “So now it’s a little more easy to play, and now I can just play my game in college basketball.”
Soon enough, he could be enjoying his time in his father’s league.
Adam Zagoria of Zags Blog covers the future stars of the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. His column usually appears every Saturday, but the NBA ruled the site yesterday. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamZagoria.