Austin Rivers

Wizards Notes: Rivers, Howard, Green, Bryant

It was already common knowledge that the NBA’s Western Conference has long been stronger than the Eastern Conference. Critics continue to call for a conference realignment even when the odds of it happening are slim to none.

But now that the game’s best player has moved from the East to the West, the gap has widened even more, leaving many Eastern Conference players, including newly acquired Wizards’ guard Austin Rivers, more confident in their team’s chances to make a run at the NBA Finals, reports Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

“This training camp, this season is just gonna be a different type of mindset,” Rivers said. “[Before] you would play and you know you’re going to run into Golden State. Here, in the East, it’s really like everybody can get there. You can go to the Finals or the conference finals if you’re a playoff-caliber team, which this team is. 

I think that puts a different confidence, focus and energy on a team. I think that will probably be a focal point in training camp, I’m sure the coaches and everyone will say this is something we need to take advantage of.” 

Per Hughes, Rivers did acknowledge that the Celtics are probably the favorites now, having been Eastern Conference runners-up the last two seasons despite missing two of their best players during the 2017/18 playoffs. But, Rivers is excited to see what he and his new teammates are capable of after falling short in the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.

There’s more out of the D.C. area tonight:

  • Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated takes a look at the Wizards’ reported free agent signings of veterans Jeff Green and Dwight Howard. Woo gives both signings a “B” grade, calling both moves thrifty and low-risk due in large part to the one-year length of both deals.
  • In another piece for NBC Sports Washington, Hughes gives his own analysis of the Howard signing, agreeing that the move is low-risk, high-reward. Hughes writes that Howard gives Washington an upgrade from last season at center and that he should be at his best surrounded by three-point shooters like Otto Porter and Bradley Beal.
  • In another, albeit more under-the-radar move we relayed earlier this week, the Wizards claimed promising young big man Thomas Bryant off waivers from the Lakers after he was cut to increase L.A.’s cap room.

L.A. Notes: Leonard, James, Rondo, Rivers

The Spurs continue to seek a high price from the Lakers in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, salary cap expert Larry Coon said in an appearance today on Spectrum SportsNet (Twitter link). Sources tell Coon that San Antonio is asking for Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, two first-rounders and the right to swap two other draft choices. “They’re just saying give us everything,” Coon said.

Coon also outlined the Lakers’ remaining cap situation, noting that the signing of Lance Stephenson with the mid-level exception will probably be the final move in free agency after all other cap space is used up.

There’s more news from Los Angeles:

  • LeBron James‘ decision to join the Lakers may give Leonard more incentive to become a Clipper, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports suggested in an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s radio show (Twitter link).
  • The Lakers are turning their attention to next summer for their next big free agent move, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. The organization’s emphasis on one-year deals helps explain the odd collection of moves that have come down since James committed to L.A. Sunday night. The Lakers re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, then reached agreements with Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo, all on one-year contracts. The team expects to have about $76MM in guaranteed money next summer, possibly less if Luol Deng is waived and stretched, leaving enough to offer another max deal.
  • Rondo, whom Deveney states has wanted to join the Lakers since 2015, could take the starting point guard job away from Lonzo Ball, writes Sam Amick of USA Today. A source tells Amick that the L.A. front office has promised Rondo the chance to compete for a starting spot.
  • During an impromptu interview with TMZ, Doc Rivers explained the decision to trade his son, Austin Rivers, to the Wizards. The Clippers coach called it “the right thing for all of us” and predicts that Austin will excel in Washington.

Clippers, Wizards Swap Austin Rivers, Marcin Gortat

10:29pm: Both teams have now officially announced the trade.

6:29pm: The Clippers are trading guard Austin Rivers to the Wizards in exchange for center Marcin Gortat, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, making it perhaps even more likely that center DeAndre Jordan is on his way out of L.A.

It was reported earlier today that Jordan, who has yet to decide on his 2018/19  player option, is considering exercising his option in order to facilitate a trade to another team, a la former teammate Chris Paul last season. While nothing has been reported officially, it seems odd that the Clippers would trade for Gortat if they have any expectation of keeping Jordan in Los Angeles.

After drafting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson in the lottery last week, Rivers appears to be a casualty of the Clippers’ guard heavy roster moving forward, especially given his price tag of $12.65MM, which is approximately twice the amount that the Clippers will pay their two rookies combined.

Meanwhile, it had already been reported that the Wizards were hoping to move on from Gortat. The Wizards needed a proven reserve guard to give John Wall and Bradley Beal some backup and, as detailed by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, to move on from Gortat from a locker room standpoint. As was highly publicized, Gortat and Wall had an inconsistent relationship, culminating in a public social media spat last season.

The Wizards now figure to enter the free agent period this weekend in search of a center. Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith are currently under contract for next season.

From a salary cap perspective, the salaries of Rivers and Gortat match nicely, with Gortat scheduled to make $13,565,218 next season, only $915,218 more than Rivers. Assuming the swap is made official before the new league year begins on Sunday, the Wizards will create a trade exception worth $957,609, the difference between the two players’ 2017/18 salaries.

The Wizards will also save about $1.4MM in luxury tax penalties by taking on Rivers’ salary in exchange for Gortat’s, as noted by ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Both Rivers and Gortat are in the final year of contracts, and will become unrestricted free agents next summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Clippers’ Austin Rivers Exercises 2018/19 Option

JUNE 23, 9:03am: Rivers has officially opted in, according to RealGM’s Transactions log.

JUNE 21, 2:37pm: Clippers guard Austin Rivers plans to opt in for next season on a $12.65MM contract, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times.

Rivers’ move is one of three major player option decisions for the Clippers, who are also waiting to hear from DeAndre Jordan ($24,119,025) and Milos Teodosic ($6.3MM).

Rivers, 25, put up career-best numbers in his third full season in L.A., averaging 15.1 points and 4.0 assists in 61 games. He became a full-time starter this season, but missed six weeks with an injured right ankle.

L.A. Notes: Thomas, Ball, Rivers, Jordan

Isaiah Thomas looked more like his old self in his Lakers debut Saturday night, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Two days after being acquired in a trade with the Cavaliers, Thomas posted 22 points and six assists and showed flashes of the dynamic offense he displayed in Boston.

“I wanted to bring something to the table,” Thomas said. “I felt like I got my powers back playing on this team.”

During a Friday night dinner with coach Luke Walton, Thomas received a crash course in Lakers philosophy. He studied the team’s playbook on his iPad, but admitted he had little knowledge of the plays when he took the court last night. It barely mattered as his natural talents took over.

“He brings another dimension to what we have,” Walton said. “When he is able to control pick-and-rolls and get people shots, obviously we couldn’t run a ton of stuff because he has been with us for one day, but he was good.”

There’s more this morning from Los Angeles:

  • Thomas’ duties with his new team will include serving as a mentor for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, Youngmisuk adds in the same story. Lakers president Magic Johnson said Ball, who has been sidelined since mid-January with a knee injury, will remain in the starting lineup when he returns. “I mean, that’s fine,” Thomas said. “I have been in the league six more years than he has. Obviously, I am going to help him out. We are part of the same team, he’s a special young player, and he is going to be an incredible talent in this league for years to come. My job is to help where I can. I am still in my prime. So it is not like I am taking a backseat to anybody. I am here to be who I am and here to make a difference on this team, and I am excited about the opportunity.”
  • Clippers guard Austin Rivers is focused on making the playoffs after missing nearly six weeks with an injured right ankle, relays Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Rivers was diagnosed with post interior ankle impingement and had to have anti-inflammatory injections to keep the swelling down. He said he did so much conditioning work that he wasn’t tired when he returned to the court Friday. “Yeah, man, it has been 18 games. That’s the most games I’ve ever missed,” Rivers said. “It was new for me. I had to take that rehab process more seriously. But I feel great, though.”
  • DeAndre Jordan remained with the Clippers through the trade deadline, but the veteran center still isn’t sure he’s in the team’s long-range plans. In a video tweeted by ESPN’s Sports Center, Jordan responded to a reporter’s question of whether he feels wanted in L.A. by saying, “What you think?” When the reporter said, “I don’t know,” Jordan retorted, “Me neither.”

Clippers Notes: Jordan, Bradley, Rivers, Harris

The Trail Blazers contacted the Clippers about DeAndre Jordan but never made a formal offer, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. His story corroborates a recent report from Marc Stein of The New York Times that the Blazers are among the teams with interest in the 29-year-old center.

L.A. is hoping to get a first-round pick, financial flexibility and young talent in any deal for Jordan, league sources tell Turner. That would be a package similar to what they received when they sent Blake Griffin to Detroit earlier this week. The same sources say teams are reluctant to trade for Jordan without assurances that he won’t opt out of his $24.1MM salary for next season and that he is willing to sign a long-term extension.

Jordan, who is averaging 11.8 points and 14.9 rebounds, would bring a huge defensive presence to Portland. Finding an acceptable match for his $22.6MM deal wouldn’t be easy for the Blazers, whose roster is filled with expensive, long-term contracts, though they do own all of their future first-rounders.

Pacific Notes: Lopez, Rivers, Clippers, Knight, Labissiere

Brook Lopezs frustrations with the 2017/18 season, his first with the Lakers, seem to have reached a boiling point, writes Bill Oram of the Orange County Register. Lopez played just nine minutes in the Lakers’ loss to the Magic on Wednesday, his lowest single-game total in over three years.

Lopez, 29, is playing for a contract next offseason and thus far, he has posted career lows across every major statistical category — a far cry from the player who averaged 20.0 PPG last season while adding a three-point shot to his repertoire. The center will return to Brooklyn on Friday to face the Nets in his first game against his former team; in the meantime, it’s all about adjustment.

“On the court, I can be very visible, with my emotions [showing on my face],” Lopez said to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “So, yeah, just trying to control myself, breathe a little bit, and just keep cool because it was an unfortunate game for us. Just watching it, it was tough to be out there. Just trying to get settled a little bit.”

Lopez said that he has not had discussions with his agent about the possibility of pursuing a buyout if he decides he wants out of Los Angeles.

Check out other Pacific Division news below:

  • Clippers guard Austin Rivers is on track to return from a right ankle injury on February 9, the day after the NBA trade deadline, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Rivers, who is having his best season to date, has missed the Clippers’ last 16 games.
  • Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated examines how the Clippers‘ use of two-way contracts this season has shaped their roster.
  • Suns guard Brandon Knight tore his ACL in the offseason and is expected to miss the entire season. However, with a lot of money still owed to him, Knight tells Scott Bordow of Arizona Central Sports that he can still contribute to the team when healthy.
  • Kings forward Skal Labissiere will miss 2-to-3 weeks with a rotator cuff muscle strain, the team announced. Labissiere has been hampered by the shoulder ailment since mid-January.

Clippers Rumors: LeBron, Jordan, Gallinari

In the wake of Monday’s Blake Griffin trade agreement, word surfaced that the Clippers were trying to force their way into this summer’s LeBron James sweepstakes, with the Griffin move representing the first step necessary to clear salary from their 2018/19 books. However, Clippers fans shouldn’t get their hopes up about that scenario, says Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.

As of now, James isn’t expected to seriously consider the Clippers in free agency, a source close to LeBron tells Spears. A source close to the Clippers also admits to Spears that the club doesn’t really expect to receive legit consideration from the four-time MVP. Still, the team has to make the phone call, Spears notes.

While the idea of acquiring LeBron is a long shot, the new voices in the Clippers’ front office, including Jerry West, were able to convince owner Steve Ballmer that the franchise has a real shot to enter the mix for the NBA’s top 2018 free agents, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times. Multiple league insiders tell Stein that the Clips will continue to explore pre-deadline deals that help them create cap room for this summer, though using cap room in 2019 represents a solid fallback plan.

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • The Clippers haven’t ruled out the possibility of extending DeAndre Jordan or Lou Williams, and have recently ramped up efforts to secure commitments from those players, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. If extensions can’t be reached, the odds of pre-deadline trades involving Jordan and/or Williams would increase. Still, the Clips haven’t closed the door on the idea of re-signing either player this offseason, per Spears.
  • Kyler and Stein both suggest that the Clippers will explore attaching multiyear contracts to Jordan and Williams in trades as they look to create more 2018 cap flexibility. Word is that any trade involving Jordan would need to include a contract like Wesley Johnson‘s or Austin Rivers‘, says Kyler.
  • It makes more sense for the Clippers to focus on 2019 free agency rather than frantically trying to ditch bad contracts now, argues Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.
  • Danilo Gallinari is currently the only Clipper with a guaranteed salary for 2019/20. The veteran forward will return to action for the club tonight after missing the last 25 games with a glute injury, Doc Rivers confirmed today (Twitter link via Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times).

Blake Griffin Roundup: Analysis, Reactions, Rumors

The Clippers and Pistons had discussed the idea of a Blake Griffin trade for about a week before finalizing an agreement on Monday, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. However, as O’Connor writes, the door opened on a potential Griffin trade back in 2016 after the big man punched a Clippers equipment manager. Doc Rivers had “casual conversations” with the Celtics about a possible Griffin deal in the summer of ’16, then listened last season when the Knicks reached out.

Now that the Clippers have moved on from Griffin, the franchise is “starting over,” but doesn’t plan on bottoming out, a GM tells O’Connor. Depending on what other moves the Clippers make before the trade deadline, pursuing a maximum-salary player this summer could be on the table, though 2019 currently looks like the more logical time for L.A. to go after one or two max guys. If the Clips want to create more flexibility for the summer of 2018, attaching a multiyear contract like Austin Rivers‘ or Danilo Gallinari‘s to Lou Williams‘ inexpensive expiring deal in a trade could be an option, O’Connor notes.

As for the Pistons, they may not be done dealing either. According to O’Connor, Detroit remains interested in Jazz swingman Rodney Hood, and could send out forward Stanley Johnson before the deadline.

As we wait to see how the Clippers and Pistons follow up on Monday’s mega-deal, let’s round up more reactions, rumors, and analysis related to 2018’s first NBA trade:

  • After initially responding to news of the trade on Monday night with a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air GIF, Griffin issued a more formal statement this morning, thanking Clippers fans and announcing that he’s ready to start “the next chapter” of his career in Detroit.
  • Although the sentiment around the NBA is that the Clippers made out well on Monday, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports wonders if the Griffin trade will be the rare blockbuster that doesn’t end up helping either team. Mannix also hears that Clips ownership has no interest in a Sixers-esque tear-down and rebuild.
  • The Clippers weren’t trying to deceive Griffin when they made their over-the-top pitch to him in free agency seven months ago; if anything, they may have been trying to deceive themselves, writes Lee Jenkins of SI.com.
  • The Clippers are moving in the right direction after the Griffin trade, according to Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times, who calls the move a “gutsy admission of a mistake and a calculated gamble on the future.”
  • With the Cavaliers set to play the Pistons on Tuesday (the newcomers won’t be active), LeBron James said it was “unfortunate” for Griffin that he was traded by the Clippers, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “He spent his last nine years there,” James said. “He signed a multiyear deal there this summer, so that’s unfortunate. But that’s the business side of it. It’s both sides. It works both sides, though. It’s the business.”
  • Despite a new arena, attendance and enthusiasm has been modest in Detroit this season. That’s a key reason why the Pistons needed to swing for the fences and generate some buzz by acquiring a star like Griffin, argues Ansar Khan of MLive.com.
  • Pistons president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy has long been willing to push his chips into the middle of the table to land a star player, and finally got his chance to do so this week, says Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.
  • We rounded up more initial reactions to the Griffin trade on Monday night.

Clippers Notes: Williams, Jordan, Rivers, Roster, Future

Clippers guard Lou Williams has led the NBA in scoring since December 22, helping his team stay in playoff contention. As coaches decide on reserves for the All-Star game rosters, Williams feels his recent play has earned him a spot, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes.

“Naw, I’ll be proud if I make it,” Williams said. “Honestly, I deserve it. I rarely speak about myself because I’ve never set personal goals. Being an All-Star wasn’t even on my radar this year. But with what this team has been through this year with injuries, with so many different lineups and still having an opportunity to compete for the playoffs and to put ourselves over .500 at this point, I think I’ve got something to do with that.”

Williams is averaging career highs in several categories, including PPG (23.1), APG (5.0), three-point percentage (41.2%). While the Clippers remain in the Western Conference playoff picture, Williams has been mentioned as a potential trade piece.

Check out other news out of the Clippers organization below:

  • DeAndre Jordan‘s name has floated all season as a possible – if not probable – trade candidate ahead of the February 8 trade deadline. The Clippers center, however, is proud of his tenure with the franchise and the longevity of his time in Los Angeles, Jeff Miller of the Orange County Register writes.
  • Coming out of a tumultuous game between the Clippers and Rockets in which things got physical on and off the court, Austin Rivers‘ reputation among his peers has taken a hit. However, the Clippers guard addressed those criticisms in an interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who detailed Rivers’ account of the incident and his relationship with Rockets veteran Trevor Ariza.
  • After that win over the Rockets, the Clippers seem to have found their identity as a team, but ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz questions how long that can last.
  • Mike Sorensen of Deseret News writes about how the Clippers team that faced the Jazz recently is unrecognizable from the squad that battled Utah in a memorable seven-game playoff series last season.