Austin Rivers is picking the right time to play the best ball of his NBA career, writes Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Considered a bust in New Orleans, Rivers was traded to the Celtics and then the Clippers during the season. He has responded with a stellar playoff performance, particularly in the second round against Houston. Kennedy reports that the Pelicans considered using their stretch provision on Rivers last summer to clear some cap room for the Omer Asik trade. New Orleans declined to pick up Rivers’ fourth-year option, deciding he wasn’t worth another season at $3.1MM. That decision should be a financial bonanza for Rivers, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer in the wake of his playoff heroics.
There’s more from the Pacific Division:
- The Clippers are in unfamiliar territory as a championship contender, according to Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Several roster moves have produced the turnaround, but bringing Doc Rivers and his championship pedigree to Los Angeles may have been the most important. “Doc has always been preaching about the way we need to play in order to win a championship, and I think we can finally see it,” said Glen Davis. “I think beating San Antonio woke us up. I think the Spurs woke up this sense of urgency we’ve always had inside of us, and now it’s paying off against the rest of these teams.”
- The Clippers have also benefited from a change in ownership, notes Robert Morales of the Long Beach Press-Telegram. During the 2014 playoffs, the team had a major distraction in the wake of racially charged remarks from former owner Donald Sterling. “Obviously, last year I thought I protected them from doing all the extra stuff,” Doc Rivers said. “But it was still, you know, they still had it. And so now this year they get to play basketball. I think that’s been big for them.”
- Vultures are starting to surround the Warriors, warns Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group, and that could lead to changes in the offseason. Golden State trails its series with Memphis, 2-1, heading into tonight’s game, and an early playoff exit could justify the team’s critics, even after a 67-win regular season. Thompson points to Andrew Bogut‘s lack of offense at center, the heavy scoring burden on Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and the difficulty free-agent-to-be Draymond Green is having with guarding larger opponents.