From a Tar Heel: Take a Bow, Austin Rivers

Sports has this funny way of breeding hate for inexplicable reasons. Some people hate teams such as the Yankees and Cowboys because of how much attention they get. Other teams are hated out of regional rivalries that pit neighbors against each other on game day. As much as we sports fans love certain athletes and teams, there’s often an equal passion for hatred somewhere else.

I’ve never really sat down and thought through my blinding, white-hot rage toward Austin Rivers, so here it goes. I’m hoping I don’t suffer an episode of PTSD in the process. I’m the same person who has written about the I Hate Christian Laettner 30 for 30 on Dat Winning, but I don’t want you to think I hate all Duke players. Grant Hill and Jabari Parker are cool.

It all started in high school. Rivers, one of the top recruits in the nation, had committed to Florida as a freshman. But early in his senior year, he uncommitted from the Gators and opened his recruitment up to Duke, Kansas and North Carolina. You can see where this is headed. I, a Tar Heel fan and future student, found myself excited about the possibility of adding Rivers. UNC, with a freshman class consisting of Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock, didn’t really need another backcourt player, but hey, if you can add a top five shooter, you add a top five shooter.

Then Rivers chose Duke and he instantly went from potential hero to villain.

Once the next season started, it felt like a match made in heaven. A boisterous Rivers playing alongside Steph Curry’s brother and the Plumlees Three. He became an easy target for UNC fans and Duke haters alike with his in-your-face personality or the way he jacked up three after three and then ran back just to flop. He fed off the psychos in Cameron Indoor, and they fed off his play.

But make no mistake, Rivers was a decent player at Duke. He averaged 15.5 points per game and shot a decent 36.5 percent from deep. He was a threat and every opposing coach was wary of him. He had a very quick first step and could get to the rim with decent success.

However, then you watch videos like the one below and reconsider:

So when are you going to get to the buzzer beater in Chapel Hill, you’re thinking. That’s a touchy subject around UNC still, so I’ll say all that needs to be said: B*******.

I just watched it again. Another part of my soul just died. It’s not your fault, Godzeller.

That moment hurt, but the world has this beautiful sense of karma and justice. Fifteen seed Lehigh and C.J. McCollum upset Rivers and two-seed Duke in the Round of 64. All felt right. The loss allowed us to step back and assess the season. Rivers had clearly destroyed team chemistry, and he wasn’t a complementary player to Seth Curry.

A disappointing college career over, Rivers then gets drafted 10th in the NBA draft by New Orleans, and his first season went…preposterously bad. It’s like everything he did in college was great there but then none of it worked against better players. There were articles ranking Rivers’ rookie year among the worst in league history. He averaged 6.2 points on 37.2 percent shooting. His percentages from deep (32.6) and the free throw line (54.6) didn’t look much better.

His first year was bad, but the last two years have to have been better right? Wrong. His field goal percentage has gone up a bit, but his other numbers really haven’t changed too much. He had to be rescued from the Celtics by his father (by the way, for all the complaining, Doc Rivers seems cool, yet his son is as smug as they come). And now we have Rivers starting playoff games because of Chris Paul’s hamstring. How did we let it get to this? And then a repeat of that fall Wednesday night:

It’s just comical. Austin Rivers is a below average NBA player, as his PER of around 10 suggests. He has some skills, but for whatever reason hasn’t shown he can be a consistently good player. He doesn’t shoot particularly well, nor does he pass it well. His skill set is gilded with a quick first step but nothing to show for after that.

Clearly I’m not the only one who doesn’t think much of Rivers’ ability.

I’ve never seen a better impersonation in my life. You have the calling off teammates with a scowl, the confidence that a low percentage iso is the right play, the moves that don’t really get him anywhere, and to top it off, a floater that wildly misses.

Somehow, the son of a former NBA player and current coach, and who was one of the top high school players, and made first-team All-ACC as a freshman now sucks as an NBA player. The list of hated Duke guards is long – J.J. Redick, Jon Scheyer, now Tyus Jones (welcome to the club!), etc. – but Rivers takes the cake for me. At least those players have some redeeming characteristics. It was easier to overlook the arrogance at Duke when he had some good highlights, but now, Rivers is just arrogant, and bad.

ANDREW TIE | @Andrew_Tie

Andrew Tie is a senior journalism major at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is a 2015 Dat Winning fellow.

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