Rivers: “I’m looking to show them I could help them win”

Jeremiah Rivers has five games in eight days to prove to the New York Knicks that he’s worth at least a further look at training camp in the fall and possibly a roster spot.
It’s a pretty daunting set of circumstances for the former Indiana guard if one looks at it that way. If he shows the Knicks something at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas — a showcase event for rookies, young players and unsigned free agents that begins Friday and runs through July 22 — he has a chance to in Madison Square Garden by November.

If he doesn’t show quite enough or if the numbers simply don’t allow it, he might spend the year scrapping for D-League opportunities or spending another winter in Europe.
The only chance he has of making it though, Rivers said, is to be comfortable being who he is.

“I’m looking to show them I could help them win,” said Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics head coach and former NBA point guard Doc Rivers. “I’m not going to do anything I’m not ready to do or anything that isn’t my strong suit. I’m just gonna go out there and help the team win, and just do what I’m good at. In the NBA, you have to find a niche. I think mine is my playmaking ability, the ability to run a team and my defensive capabilities. My goal is just to get to training camp and enjoy playing for this organization.”
Rivers believes he’s much more capable of that than he would have been a year ago after his second and final year at Indiana, where he averaged 4.9 points and 3.7 rebounds over two seasons. The former Georgetown transfer didn’t have a Summer League opportunity last year because there was not an NBA Summer League due to the lockout that delayed the beginning of the season until Christmas. Rivers had participated in the Portsmouth Invitational — the annual professional scouting event for college seniors — and was pleased with his performance even though he wasn’t drafted. Though he believed the Knicks had some interest at the time, the uncertainty about the lockout was too much for him to take his chances looking for a U.S. opportunity, so he signed with KK Mega Vizura in the Serbian “A” league.

That move brought its share of complications. Rivers was the only American player on the team, and only a handful of his teammates spoke even broken English. He was somewhat successful in learning Serbian, and was appreciative of the warm reception he got from fans and the organization as well as the beauty of the city of Belgrade.
Still, it wasn’t easy.

“It’s not for everyone,” he said. “You always hear about how American struggle overseas, and it’s a very tough thing to do mentally as much as anything. I went through some highs and lows, real peaks and valleys. … It was an amazing experience and it’s a blessing to play basketball professionally, but I definitely struggled with some things.”

That at times included basketball. He played just 14 games with Mega Vizura from October to January before being sidelined with ankle injuries the rest of the season. After scoring in double figures in his first two games, he never broke 10 points in a game again. He averaged 6.2 points in 20.1 minutes per game along with 2.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists against 1.7 turnovers.

There were a number of areas, however, in which he made clear strides. For one thing, he finally found something of a shooting stroke. After shooting 42.4 percent (111-for-262) at Indiana, including 17.4 percent (4-for-23) from beyond the 3-point arc, he made jumps on both numbers in Europe. He finished 43.5 percent (34-for-78) from the field and 32.0 percent (8-for-25) from beyond the 3-point arc. Though it’s still a very modest average, he made twice as many 3-pointers in 14 games in Serbia than he made in 63 games in Indiana. He still shot an ugly 52.4 percent (11-for-21) from the free throw line, but otherwise, he made mostly net gains.

“I got to Europe and we practiced twice a day, six days a week,” Rivers said. “How can you not get better? That’s all I did was shoot jumper after jumper after jumper. Teams aren’t looking at me to be some 15-20-point score, but I’ve got to be able to hit shots, to hit open shots, and just be a threat.”

Rivers’s hope is that will be enough to take a chance on him because of his abilities as a defender and overall athlete. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder saw his offensive role decrease as his career progressed at Indiana, but he also became a defensive specialist and often drew the opponent’s best defender. He showed an ability to handle everything from point guards to power forwards at IU, and he’s hopeful the Knicks — who finished 11th in the NBA in scoring defense last season — will find that of value.

“They told me they wanted someone that can go in there and make a difference,” Rivers said. “They want someone tall and athletic who can run the point and help them shut-down-ball handlers and really bring another element defensively. I feel like I can bring that to the table.”

He has eight days to prove it.

11 comments

  1. This is a pipe dream…Sorry. Love the kid’s defensive tenacity, but he couldn’t find a Boston rim if the backboard was a tea party and the harbor the intended aim of his taxing jump shot.

  2. Oh my God! It must be a sign of the apocalypse, for once I agree with Harvard.

    I think this is a favor to his old man. Rivers is not NBA material. But who knows, his Dad may have called in some markers and they may need an inexpensive practice player.

  3. Why be hatin’ on JR? I hope he makes it. He helped pave the way for last season by coming to IU when no one else wanted to. I wish him the best.

  4. Personally, I think Reggie’s dad driving an Escalade was a more important sign the end is near.

    Nonetheless, I’m glad we finally agree.

  5. Jeremiah got his offer from IU because Crean wanted the PR his ties to an NBA coach along with the hopes to somehow get a shot at the true b-ball star in the Rivers’ household. We witnessed a ton of bricks laid to watch that wall tumble. Austin was the true loser…He could have hung a banner playing with Cody.

  6. I wonder if the IU connections got Jeremiah a look. According to the IU website, Glen Grunwald is in the front office, Mike Woodson is the coach, and Jared Jeffries is a player for the Knicks. Whatever, I wish him luck.

  7. I’m actually surprised my dad drives an Escalade considering my parents have both owned Ford vehicles the past 15 years or so. I’d rather have the 2013 Roush Stage 3 Mustang than any Cadillac but the Escalade is an okay family SUV, it gets horrible MPG though!

  8. Debbie, no one’s “hating on” JR. We just don’t see him as having NBA level talent. But who knows, maybe he has worked very hard in the last year and improved his skills. As I said yesterday, he could make for a good and inexpensive practice player.

    I hope he makes it too, but I doubt it very much. The competition at that level in super intense.

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