Doc Rivers poked his head into his son's bedroom on Saturday night after arriving home in Florida for a quick visit following the Boston Celtics win over the Washington Wizards.
"He popped in my room and he was like, 'Congratulations, man. Welcome to the Red Claws,' " Jeremiah Rivers said in a telephone interview.
On Friday the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics D-League affiliate, selected Jeremiah in the fifth round of the 2012 NBA Development League Draft.In spite of being Doc's oldest son, there were no guarantees where the 25-year-old guard would land. He drew interest from other teams in similar rounds, but when he was available the at Red Claws pick, the team called his name.
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"I think it's cool," said Jeremiah. "We didn't plan for it to be that way . . . I just think it's great that my father's not too far away. They have that fan base and that culture. I'm extremely excited about it."
Jeremiah isready to get back on the court and take the next step in his career after recovering from double ankle surgery.He played in Serbia last season and returned to the United States for the procedures in March and April, eyeing a return in time for Las Vegas Summer League in July. He appeared in four games for the New York Knicks, averaging 3.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 0.5 assists, but was more ready to play mentally than he was physically.
"Summer League with the Knicks, I did ok," he said. "Obviously I wasn't playing my best basketball. Unfortunately, my health was a really big concern. I was coming off double surgeries on my left and right ankles and I shouldn't have even been playing in summer league. But it was just a great opportunity because unfortunately last year with the lockout, I wasn't able to play. I was just so eager to to get out there, and I shouldn't have been out there."
Jeremiah returned to Florida to continue rehabbing. He made his health his number one focus and stayed positive with the support of his family, including Doc and his younger brother Austin, a rookie on the New Orleans Hornets.
"My dad was basically like, 'Get healthy. I know it's been frustrating for you,'" Jeremiah said. "I feel like I've been rehabbing for so long. Unfortunately ankles are just very, very difficult, tricky procedure and the rehab and recovery on it takes a lot of time. It's been a very tough recovery. My dad's been saying things like, 'Man, I know you have the talent. You're 6-(foot)-5, you're tall, you can jump, you can run with anybody in the NBA, you have the skills. He said, 'Get healthy and everything else will take care of itself.' "
While his ultimate goal is to earn a spot on an NBA roster, he knows it won't happen by playing selfish basketball.Drawing from the "we, not me" approach his father has engrained in the Celtics, Jeremiah is focused on the Red Claws as a team rather than his individual performance.
"I think if you play to win, everything else will take care of itself individually," he said. "I know a lot of NBDL players are trying to get that call up and play the best that they can play, so for me, I'm not going to go out there and worry about myself. When you play to win, you're going to play your best basketball. I want to bring leadership, create plays for other people, hit the open shot, play defense, do all the things I'm good at and have developed over the year that people haven't seen since I've been away from the game in Europe or hurt. I can bring a lot so I'm excited."
Jeremiah will begin his career with the Red Claws when training camp opens on November 12. On that day, Doc will be coaching against the Bulls in Chicago and Austin will be preparing for a game against the Houston Rockets.
"That's how we want it," Jeremiah laughed. "Honestly, it's really neat. We work hard. I'm so proud of my brother Austin and obviously my dad. It's basically a big support system at my house. Everybody knows the time and hours that everybody puts in for things to work and honestly I'm just blessed. I don't know another way to put it. I'm glad to be able to go out there and do what I love and play basketball again. Hopefully soon enough I'll be playing against Austin in the next level and my dad, which would be an even crazier story. Hopefully it works, and at the end of the day that's all I can ask for."