PORTLAND – As trainer Jessica Kendall adjusted the tape on Jeremiah Rivers’ left ankle, he looked away, his face tightening, the pain obvious.
Maine Red Claws Coach Mike Taylor approached Rivers, telling his player that he should sit out most of the day’s practice. But it was up to Rivers.
Rivers practiced. He ran the drills, competed in scrimmages and kept on going.
“I’ve been on the sidelines for over a year,” Rivers said, explaining why he worked out when the coach offered him a day off.
Jeremiah Rivers works hard. Is that a surprise?
He is the son of Doc Rivers, a former NBA player and now coach of the Boston Celtics. Needless to say, Jeremiah Rivers could live a comfortable life.
“We were spoiled,” Jeremiah said. “We live in an amazing home.
But the term “spoiled” quickly needs to be defined in the Rivers household. It means blessed with opportunity. It does not mean coddled.
Jeremiah Rivers, 25, is the son of Doc and Kristen Rivers, and older brother to Callie, Austin and Spencer. A key word in the house was “accountability.”
“You need to create your own success,” Kristen said last week while visiting Portland.
She knows the stereotype of spoiled rich kids.
“I don’t know if economics has anything to do with it. I think it’s a choice parents make, on how involved you want to be — how hands-on you are,” she said.
“It’s easier to watch TV and let stuff go. … It’s harder to yell.”
Kristen has raised her voice. So has Doc. They are disciplinarians like their own parents. They have also been with their children every step.
“We’re a close-knit family,” Jeremiah said. “Nothing but love and support in my family.”
Home base is Winter Park, Fla., a suburb of Orlando. From there the Rivers family travels — a lot. Jeremiah has played basketball at Georgetown and Indiana universities. Callie was a volleyball player for the University of Florida and now works in Miami. Austin played basketball for Duke and is now with the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA, and Spencer is a junior at Winter Park High.
Doc Rivers’ travels to see his kids are legendary, taking red-eye flights after Celtics games to catch a son’s or daughter’s game.
“The man does not sleep, man,” Jeremiah said. “Seriously, he doesn’t sleep.”
As for mom, “she’s definitely the backbone of the family. And she is all over the place. She was just in New Orleans, running the marathon there and seeing Austin.”
Running a marathon?
“Yes sir,” Jeremiah said.
Last weekend, after enjoying a visit from Callie to Boston, Doc and Kristen Rivers, along with son Spencer, drove to Portland to catch Jeremiah’s game with the Red Claws. Doc Rivers was skipping the Celtics’ practice that day.
“You have to make time. It’s your family,” Doc Rivers said. “You want to spend as much time as possible with them.”
Last Sunday was a special game, too. Since high school, Jeremiah has played in pain, on sore feet. He has missed the last 15 months because of surgeries on both feet, removing bone spurs on both, and a cyst on the Achilles tendon of one.
“The surgeries were so intense. I wondered if I was ever going to play again,” Jeremiah said.
The Red Claws drafted Rivers but he wasn’t healthy enough to play. He still came to Portland often, rehabbing while his teammates played. He was activated Feb. 18 and has played five games for Maine. Sunday was the first time his parents saw him in a Red Claws uniform.
“He’s moving so much better,” Doc said.
Kristen said Sunday was “one of the biggest joys of my life, just watching him move and play, and just enjoy basketball again. I don’t think he’s enjoyed it like this since eighth or ninth grade, just in terms of being pain-free. It’s been a long hard road. I’m extremely proud of him.”
Rivers is averaging 6.4 points a game but his forte is defense. A 6-foot-5 guard, Rivers plays man-to-man defense like he’s a shadow.
“I love the way he plays basketball. He’s one of the best defenders I know,” said teammate DaJuan Summers, who was also Rivers’ roommate at Georgetown.
“He’s probably one of the best people I know. A very helpful person. He has a good heart.”
Rivers said he liked Georgetown except for the basketball team’s slow style of play. He transferred to Indiana and discovered something besides fast breaks.
“Jacobs School of Music,” Jeremiah said. “I loved it there.”
Rivers majored in general studies but his minor (and passion) was music.
As a kid, he was someone who only fooled around on the family piano.
Now Rivers is going professional as a music producer.
He is the producer for a duo known at 24K — “musical hip-hop” according to Rivers, who also helps write some of the music. The group’s first video and single will be released soon, and the group has been invited to play in the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 15.
The Red Claws play in Portland on March 14 and then play their next game in Austin on March 16.
“I’m going to be on the first flight, smoking out of here to see them perform,” Rivers said.
Flying all over the place and working hard, just like his dad.
Rivers credits his parents and grandparents for the work ethic.
“I think (dad) and mom instilled the same values their parents instilled. I think they’ve done a fantastic job,” Rivers said.
“We were taught that you want to create your own life for yourself. We see the hard work my dad puts in. We see the hard work my mom puts in. It rubs off on you.”
NOTES: Rivers had practiced at point guard since Shelvin Mack was signed by the Atlanta Hawks. But the Red Claws obtained another point guard Thursday, trading a second-round draft pick next year to the Canton Charge for Josh Selby. Selby, 6-foot-2, was a second-round draft pick by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2011. He was traded in January to the Cleveland Cavaliers and assigned to Canton. The Cavs removed him from the NBA roster March 3. The transaction was made even easier since Selby flew to Portland on Thursday with the Canton team and then joined the Red Claws. This two-game series with Canton is big because the East Division-leading Charge (22-15) have a two-game lead over the Red Claws (21-18).
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: