Rivers says all the right things in T.O.

Former Duke combo guard Austin Rivers goes up for a layup while working out for the Raptors...

Former Duke combo guard Austin Rivers goes up for a layup while working out for the Raptors Thursday. (JACK BOLAND/QMI AGENCY)

MIKE GANTER, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:22 PM ET

Austin Rivers is either a really, really good salesman or he really, really wants to begin his NBA career in Toronto.

With his freshman year at Duke behind him, the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers continued an abbreviated tour of potential NBA landing spots at the Air Canada Centre practice gym on Thursday.

The combo guard — he can play either point guard or shooting guard but the Raps consider him right now to be more of the latter — made it abundantly clear that he considers Toronto among his top choices to call his name on draft night in just under two weeks. The key word there being “among.”

Rivers said between himself, his father and his agent, the trio has scheduled just five workouts. Toronto was No. 2. He will also visit Washington, Portland and Cleveland. He has already been to New Orleans.

“I have kept up with teams that fit me and the Raptors are one of those places and that’s why I’m here,” Rivers said. “I think I fit in this program well. I like the way they play. I like the new coach, I like how he gets after it on defence. As far as offensively, they like to get up and down and go at them and that’s something I like to do.”

Apparently the Raptors organization also has the blessing of his father.

“This is one of the places he likes a lot too,” Austin said of his dad, Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “There are only a few of them that we chose and my dad is even more of a critic. He likes this place and he loves their coach and so do I. Hopefully everything goes well.”

Of course there’s also the matter of what the Raptors want. And right now they are saying good things about just about everyone who walks through their gym, media members excluded of course.

Ed Stefanski is the Raptors Executive vice president of basketball operations and the only member of management speaking for the team at this time. He came away suitably impressed with Rivers.

“He’s more athletic than I thought he was,” Stefanski said of Rivers. “He really can compete. He has been worked out over all these years knowing what could happen to him so he’s much the pro, even right now.”

Stefanski isn’t concerned his youth and just the one year at Duke would be something that would keep the Raptors, who are already very young, from seriously considering him.

“I don’t think so,” Stefanski said. “He had the year at Duke and the one thing he can really do is he has a terrific cross-over dribble to his left hand to get to the basket. He’s quick off the bounce. He’s going to have to work on getting bigger and stronger too but he’s not even 20-years-old. We saw enough through the year that he is going to be one of the top players picked in this draft.”

And to hear Rivers tell it, no one would be happier than him if commissioner David Stern uttered the words: “And with the eighth selection in the 2012 NBA draft, the Toronto Raptors select Austin Rivers.”

Also in town for a look on a very busy Thursday for the Raptors was North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes who worked out by himself in an afternoon session.

Barnes, while pegged in many mock drafts to be long gone by the time the Raptors select (if they don’t trade the pick), made Toronto his first stop. While he was tight-lipped about his next visits he said he would probably limit it to three or four more teams.

“You can’t put any stock on those mock drafts,” Barnes said when it was suggested his stop in Toronto would raise some eyebrows. “You never know where you’re going to end up so working out for a variety of teams only puts yourself in a better situation in case someone passes on you.”

Stefanski was in complete agreement.

“No one knows,” he said. “Everyone plays game and everyone postures in the league. I would say there are a handful of kids that definitely won’t get to us and I think that’s why you saw him in our gym today. There’s a chance he could be sitting on the board with other players by then, but we’ll have to see on draft night.”

LAMB’S WORKOUT ENDS EARLY

Jeremy Lamb’s workout for the Raptors didn’t get past the five-minute mark.

The UConn shooting guard rolled his ankle that early in the workout and made the decision to shut it down.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com was reporting later in the day that Lamb had already cancelled a coming workout with Portland and may do the same with workouts planned in Phoenix and Cleveland. Givony did say Lamb might return to Toronto later on.

Lamb is more on the reserved side than a guy like Austin Rivers or even Damian Lillard. Happy-go-lucky isn’t his approach to life. It’s no secret Bryan Colangelo puts a lot of stock in how a guy fits with his team before bringing in a new face, but there’s also the view that the Raptors room could stand a guy like Lamb, who has a little more of an edge to him.

“I’ve said over and over I think Bryan and his staff have done a terrific job of bringing character people in here, good people that like each other, but that doesn’t mean that a guy with a lot of talent who might not be the perfect fit personality wise is the worst thing in the world,” Ed Stefanski said. “I had a couple of players in Jersey and Philly that were not totally well-liked but when you put them on the court the players like them. You look for talent and talent is extremely important. The rest? You would like to have the entire package but to me talent will trump that most times.”


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