Doc Rivers: Sam Cassell was first to suggest Austin Rivers could fit in Denver

Nuggets guard Austin Rivers might owe 76ers assistant coach Sam Cassell a Christmas card.

Sixers coach Doc Rivers, Austin’s father, said it was Cassell who first recognized that Denver might be a good home for his son. After a tumultuous ending with the Knicks last March, Rivers was at home contemplating his NBA future. The 76ers happened to be in Denver on March 30th when Rivers approached Nuggets coach Michael Malone and relayed Cassell’s message.

“This would be a good place for Austin,” Rivers remembered Cassell saying.

Shortly thereafter, the Nuggets’ backcourt was ravaged by injuries, which immediately made Austin a viable option.

The Nuggets initially signed Austin to a 10-day contract in late April, and the veteran guard stuck for the rest of the season. The Nuggets, pleased with his defense and his veteran presence, brought him back on a one-year deal this offseason.

“It’s always great when your kid is happy,” Doc said prior to Thursday’s game against the Nuggets. He reiterated how much Austin appreciates Denver, his teammates and Malone.

Both Rivers spent Wednesday night together discussing everything from hoops to Austin’s two kids. The elder Rivers joked that the conversation was a lot different than the one they would’ve had several years ago.

“Free meal,” Doc said. “He owes me about 20,000 more.

“… I think they still think like, grandparents when they come over that they get to leave, and that’s a no,” Rivers added.

The son of a coach himself, Malone said he can relate to Austin, who’s had a slow start to his season as he’s bounced in and out of the rotation. But Malone has remained firmly in his corner.

“For most sons and fathers, once that jump ball goes up, no one really cares,” Malone said. “You’re trying to win a game. … His father was a great player. His father’s won an NBA championship. That’s a lot to live up to. Austin needs to be Austin.”

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