Hornets view dynamic Rivers as offensive catalyst

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

With hand-checking and physical contact by defenders all but eliminated from the modern NBA game, teams put a premium on players who can create their own shot and attack by penetrating to the basket. From that standpoint, the New Orleans Hornets believe Austin Rivers can be a valuable asset to a squad that ranked near the bottom of the league in offense last season.

“In our scouting process, we really liked Austin,” Hornets general manager Dell Demps explained. “We thought he could really break guys down (by dribbling). In today’s NBA, beating guys off the dribble is so important.”

In the months leading up to the 2012-13 season, much of the discussion about the 10th overall pick revolved around what NBA position he would play. A shooting guard throughout the entirety of his hoops career, the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder has been trying to also learn the point guard role in his first pro year. It’s possible he’ll be on the floor at both spots, in various combinations with other New Orleans backcourt players.

“Some people say, ‘Is he a point guard? Is he a shooting guard?’ We think of him as just a guard,” Demps said. “Eric (Gordon), at the end of games last year, we put the ball in his hands and he was able to make plays, create and facilitate. We think they can play together.”

“I like playing with Austin because he can really go,” point guard Greivis Vasquez said of Rivers’ quickness and athleticism. “We can play fast with him. When he’s off the ball, he can play very well. We also can switch at the 1 and 2 with him. At some point, you may see Austin, (Gordon) and myself out there together. We can all handle the ball and play fast.”

Regardless of what position or role he fills this season, Rivers is using his unique basketball background – he’s the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers – to his advantage in his adjustment to the league as a rookie.

“I’m learning – that’s the biggest thing right now,” the 20-year-old Rivers said. “I’m learning from a lot of these older veterans I get to be around every day. I’m learning from Coach (Monty Williams) and learning from my experience on the court.”