For most Celtics, Wednesday night was the first time they have played on the same court with Austin Rivers since the coach’s son was beginning high school.
And they noticed his maturity, having nothing but compliments after Austin’s Hornets stunned the Celtics at TD Garden.
It was the fourth time in NBA history a father went up against his son, and Doc Rivers wasn’t the only one who thought the event was bizarre.
“It was strange for everybody in here,” Kevin Garnett said. “If we didn’t feel old, we feel a little old [now] seeing a kid who used to used to say absolutely nothing and dribble his ball and kind of being in his own little world to being a young man now in the league and trying to make something of himself and doing a good job of it.
“Talking trash, running up and down, leading his team. It’s good to see Austin doing real good. We root for him obviously when he’s away from here but I’ll admit it, it was a little odd. But he’s family and we all hit the floor and we’re trying to win, but yeah, it was odd.”
Rivers scored 8 points, his most since Dec. 28, in the Hornets’ 90-78 win. Paul Pierce was one of the few Celtics who has seen Rivers’s development over the past several years, watching a preteen Rivers workout during school breaks at the team’s Waltham practice facility.
During one stretch late in the first half Wednesday, Pierce crossed over Rivers and canned a short jumper.
“I see a kid who’s going to grow and grow as he continues to develop,” Pierce said. “He plays with tremendous confidence and he’s going to have a bright future, as long as he continues to work hard. He’s had his ups and downs throughout the season but a lot of rookies do when they first come in but he’ll eventually find his niche and be a player in this league.”
And Pierce understands Rivers’s path. He was once a high school phenom playing often against NBA players during the summer.
“I knew he would be an NBA player, I had a chance to play one-on-one [with him] when he was like in the 10th grade,” Pierce said. “I think I went upstairs and told Doc, ‘You got an NBA player right here. He’ll be able to make it to the NBA.’ ”
When asked if he beat Austin, Pierce said, “Yeah barely. I took it lightly. I knew he had a lot of confidence. I knew how hard he worked. I saw his potential and upside. You just saw the things that you see in current NBA players; you saw he had a lot of that in him.”
Stars lining up
With the results to be released Thursday evening, Garnett was leading Miami’s Chris Bosh by more than 28,000 votes to be the starting center for the Eastern Conference in next month’s All-Star Game in Houston. Garnett was passed over last year during the lockout-shortened season, ending a string of 14 consecutive years being elected.
Garnett said the break last year was “great,” but he would be grateful for the opportunity to return.
“If it happens, then obviously I am more than gracious,” he said. “If it doesn’t, I’ll definitely take advantage of the break. You don’t put yourself there. Everything is voted on, and any time you can say you’ve been playing for countless years and the fans still appreciate you for what you do, that says a lot.”
Meanwhile, Rondo was trailing only Miami’s Dwyane Wade in voting among guards and is expected to be a starter. He led Brooklyn’s Deron Williams, who was third, by more than 325,000 votes.
Jeremiah Rivers, Doc’s oldest son who is on the injured list for the Maine team in the NBADL, said he is a couple of weeks away after having surgery to remove bone spurs from both ankles.
“This is the best I’ve felt in years, the quickest I’ve been, the strongest I’ve been,” he said. “The leanest I’ve been. I feel very good right now. I’ve been working my tail off. It’s probably the hardest I’ve ever worked.”
Rivers said he made a mistake by trying to play in the NBA Summer League with the Knicks entry.
“I had some pretty intense bone spur removal,” he said. “I had them all over my ankle, which is kind of the issue.
“Over the years, I dealt with them in college and in high school. I went overseas [to Serbia], and we’re practicing twice a day, and it just got to the point where I couldn’t do what I am accustomed to doing.
“I rushed it and came back almost two months too early and was playing at like 50 percent [in summer league].”
Chris Wilcox dressed for the second consecutive game, but Doc Rivers wants his backup center to participate in another practice before bringing him back from a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right wrist. Wilcox has not played since Dec. 18 against the Bulls and was projected to miss one month . . . New Orleans was without guard Eric Gordon, who had led the club to a 4-1 record in the past five games. Wednesday was his first back-to-back opportunity since returning from knee surgery, and coach Monty Williams chose to give him the night off . . . Hornets guard Brian Roberts left the game in the second quarter with a sprained left ankle suffered when he landed awkwardly after a drive.