Anthony Davis' Ankle Injury Will Force Austin Rivers to Exceed Expectations

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent INovember 21, 2012

October 9, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Hornets guard Austin Rivers (25) against the Charlotte Bobcats during the second half of a preseason game at the New Orleans Arena. The Hornets defeated the Bobcats 97-82.  Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Rookie forward Anthony Davis' ankle injury forced him to miss Tuesday night's game against the New York Knicks, and it was time for fellow first-year player Austin Rivers to step up.

The former Duke Blue Devil scored a career-high 14 points in the New Orleans Hornets' 102-80 loss, nailing two three-pointers in what has thus far been a disappointing season for him.

Rivers' performance against the Knicks is all well and good, but not enough to take away from the fact that he still needs to make a greater effort in order to hush his critics. He has struggled with his jump shot all season, and the absences of teammates Rivers and Eric Gordon will force him to adjust his offensive approach accordingly.

Look at it this way. In his sole year at Duke, Rivers averaged 15.5 points per game and shot 43 percent from the field. On the professional level, his lack of experience has caught up with him. In eight games, he has posted just 7.6 points on 32 percent shooting.

This isn't anywhere near good enough production on Rivers' end. Compared to how well Davis has adjusted to the NBA, he needs to start showing more confidence and that he can be more than just a shooter, like he was in college.

As of now, Rivers is averaging just 7.5 field-goal attempts per game and just over three free-throw attempts. In college, he averaged 11.8 and 5.4 attempts, respectively. Clearly, he needs to step up his effort in both areas as a pro.

Granted, Rivers wasn't expected to be a starter this season. Were it not for Gordon's knee flaring up, he probably would have seen limited minutes off the bench. Assuming his numbers were similar to what they are now, he easily would have been assigned to the D-League.

Those are just a few reasons why Rivers needs to exceed expectations, save for Davis being injured. Aside from needing to step up in his teammates' absences, he needs to play better so that he can enjoy a long and successful NBA career and thus avoid being labeled a draft bust.

All in all, Rivers just needs to be more confident on the court. The Hornets drafted him because they saw him as someone who could play a big role in the future of the franchise, so he needs to relax and do what he does best: play the game.

If he can get into a flow and find his confidence in Davis' absence, then the Hornets will be all the better once their young power forward returns. All he has to do is pick his shots more carefully and not be afraid to draw contact. More importantly, he shouldn't at all hesitate if he wants to take a shot.

So long as Rivers can make those changes and work at them game after game until he has them down pat, then the Hornets will be fine while Davis recovers from his ankle injury. If he just continues to try and do what he's been doing, however, then he'll just look more and more like a bust.