Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers earned the respect of national viewers with a gutsy Game 6 performance against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 29. Sustaining a graphic facial injury just five minutes into the first quarter, he went back to the locker room, received 11 stitches, and re-entered the game to aid his shorthanded team. The Clippers would ultimately lose, but Rivers made it a last stand worthy of remembrance, putting up 21 points with eight assists through the throbbing pain and impaired vision.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports brought Rivers in to discuss the events of that night and how they affected how fans perceive him on The Vertical podcast. The podcast is available for download, here, or listenable with the click of a button in this tweet:
The two of them talk at length about Rivers' history, family, and growth, so the whole podcast is interesting and worth a listen. However, if you do not have time for that right now, a pertinent section is highlighted below:
Wojnarowski: You had earned the respect around this team, but you had a great year. I mean, you really—and I think from beginning to end—anybody, against any standard, you got better. You were part of a lot of success here with this group, but for whatever reason, the public view of you—can you feel it? That that night, and you playing with that injury changed the way people see you?
Rivers: Yeah, you know, it’s funny. I honestly I don’t know why. I think a lot of it comes from maybe my early years from Duke to the first couple years at New Orleans, where I was struggling, I wasn’t really right yet. You know what I mean? I wasn’t matured yet. I was just an 18-year-old kid trying to figure it out. Sometimes it takes guys more time, and it did for me, but nonetheless I’m here and I’ve matured and come into my own.
I think that night, people saw—I think it wasn’t just so much that I was a good player; I think this season I’ve proven what I can do statistically, whatever you want to talk about, so people knew that. I think that night they found out I was just a hooper. I think that’s what people like to see. There’s so much… I don’t want to say ‘nonsense,’ but there’s so much stuff that goes on today with professional sports. You don’t know what’s real or not, for fans. They don’t know if a guy’s authentic, whatever, whatever. So I think when they saw that, they were like ‘Man, he loves to play,’ like ‘He just wants to play and win.’ People who know me know that’s all what I’m about and I think that’s when I won people over.
It was crazy because people were hitting me up, man, I haven’t heard in a long time. I don’t really look at comments or stuff on Instagram or Twitter, but I remember Jamal [Crawford] was like ‘Man, you should just look at them.’ And I looked at them and it was crazy because it was a complete 360 of what it was two years ago when I was in New Orleans and people—I couldn’t say something without people just killing me. Now it’s the total opposite.
I always use Jamal’s name because he’s been huge with me. He’s kind of embraced me since I’ve gotten here, and he was just like ‘I knew this was going to happen for you. I saw it happening. Midseason, I would just smile sometimes looking at you in your locker because you’ve just grown into a player.’ He goes ‘Tonight, the world notices, but I’ve noticed for a while. This season, you’ve been doing this all year. You’ve had multiple games where you’ve done what you did tonight.’ But in the playoffs, Chris [Paul] out, obviously with the eye, I think it was the right moment for people to realize that. I’m happy, man, and again I’m not trying to say what everybody says, but I really couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They really embraced me and got me better.