Austin Rivers

Clippers Notes: Paul, Rivers, Rebuild

Chris Paulwho was traded from the Clippers to the Rockets in the offseason, is preparing for his return to Staples Center on Sunday when Houston faces the Lakers. While the atmosphere will be different, with mostly Lakers fans in attendance, Paul is still returning to the city he called home for six seasons.

While Paul plays for a different team, he still keeps in touch with former teammates, particularly Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, Sam Amick of USA Today Sports writes. Jordan has been in the news as a possible trade candidate due to the Clippers’ poor play knocking the team out of playoff contention in the Western Conference. Whatever happens with Jordan’s career, Paul is clear that he will remain close friends with 29-year-old center.

“I talk to DJ just about every day,” Paul said to USA TODAY Sports. “(About) everything. Life, hoop, everything. But I talk to him just about every day. Seriously … I always wish (the Clippers) the best, but for me – DeAndre, I talk to DJ literally about every day. And Jasen Powell, who’s the head trainer, I talk to him almost every day too.”

Check out other news surrounding the Clippers below:

  • Clippers’ guard Austin Rivers was fined $25,000 for swearing at a fan during the team’s Thursday night loss to the Jazz, the NBA announced on Saturday, per Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter).
  • The MCL injury to Blake Griffin compounded the Clippers’ struggles and it is just the latest string in bad luck for the team, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes. Current Timberwolves guard and former Clippers standout Jamal Crawford chalked up the Clippers’ rough stretches to one thing:“It was just sometimes bad timing,” he said. “I remember, just bad timing.”
  • After a rash of injuries and poor play, it’s time for the Clippers to start the rebuilding process, Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders opines. Hamilton notes that the Clippers have a $119MM payroll committed and most of the team’s best players are currently injured. If the team wants to clear space and put forth a capable team, now is the time to do it, he adds.

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are in a precarious position, now teetering on the ledge of an existential crisis following Blake Griffin‘s latest significant injury. Suddenly, the team that seemed so valiantly intent on forging ahead without Chris Paul (and then Milos Teodosic and then Patrick Beverley) has been dramatically deflated, dealt a seemingly insurmountable blow that could very well change the franchise’s short-term plans.

Needless to say, the next few months will be of particular interest to various representatives of the team’s pending free agents, several of whom could stand to benefit from increased playing time in Griffin’s absence and/or a significantly expanded role if the team decides to lean into a full-fledged rebuild and trade away veterans.

On paper, the Clippers could end up with substantial cap space, but that’s far from guaranteed considering how many players have options heading into the summer.

Montrezl Harrell, C, 24 (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $4MM deal in 2015
One of the biggest potential beneficiaries of the Clippers’ bad luck is Harrell, a 2015 second-round pick who showed glimpses of productivity throughout his first two seasons in the league with Houston. Harrell hasn’t done much to this point in the 2017/18 season but it seems inevitable that he’ll see his playing time and opportunities in general increase over the next two months.

Brice Johnson, PF, 24 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $3MM deal in 2016
While the absence of Griffin could open up opportunities for Johnson to see more of a role at the big league level, the team would have to fully accept a rebuild in order for the sparsely-used North Carolina product to start seeing consistent action. I’m not sure if the Clips are there yet. Simply put, Johnson hasn’t show much in Los Angeles and the team forfeited the chance to lock him up on the cheap last month when it turned down his rookie option.

Wesley Johnson, SF, 30 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $18MM deal in 2016
After eight underwhelming seasons in the NBA, it’s hard to imagine Johnson landing big money in a crowded free agent market next summer. However, the 30-year-old – who has career averages of 7.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game – has a player option worth over $6MM that he’ll presumably accept.

DeAndre Jordan, C, 29 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $88MM deal in 2015
Jordan is the closest thing to a marquee name among Los Angeles’ pending free agents. The 29-year-old will be coming off of seven straight seasons as a rain-or-shine starter (10 in total), with off-the-charts rebounding numbers and an All-Star Game under his belt. That being said, Jordan  – who holds a $24MM player option for next season – will need to be careful heading into the summer, considering the market for big men has changed since he signed his last contract. On top of that, any long-term deal would put a club at risk of having that contract turn into an albatross during its back half. Finally, it’s not inconceivable to suggest that the Jordan you could temporarily (kinda, maybe, possibly) justify maxing out was simply a product of CP3’s playmaking abilities. Jordan may very well end up turning down his player option, but there won’t likely be strong market pressure for L.A. or anybody else to offer a huge long-term deal.

Willie Reed, C, 28 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
Now with his third team in three NBA season, Reed will need to show that he’s more than just a journeyman spot starter with legal baggage. While Reed has been used less with the Clippers than he was in Miami last season, his opportunities could increase substantially with Griffin sidelined. I suspect, given the big man’s per-36 numbers, he’ll be able to procure more than the minimum and stick with that team for longer than a single season.
Austin Rivers vertical
Austin Rivers, G, 25 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $35MM deal in 2016
The Clippers took a gamble on Rivers in 2016, offering the largely unproven combo guard a major contract without much of a track record to show for it. Fast forward two seasons and Rivers remains more or less equally underwhelming. Rivers does little across the board and isn’t a particularly effective shooter. It wouldn’t make much sense for Rivers’ camp to turn down his $13MM player option for next season.

Milos Teodosic, PG, 31 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $12MM deal in 2017
It’s hard to gauge Teodosic’s NBA value, considering he only played two games before falling to a foot injury. As things stand, the romantic notion that Teodosic would drop in from overseas to fill the playmaking hole left by Paul is on the back burner. If the plan was for Teodosic to prove himself in his rookie season, turn down his player option for 2018/19 and then sign a larger contract, it’ll come down to how he fares during the second half of the season, since nobody has yet seen enough to warrant a big investment. It seems likely that the Serbian 31-year-old will be back in the lineup before the end of December, so there’s plenty of time for him to prove himself at the NBA level.

Lou Williams, SG, 32 (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $21MM deal in 2015
Over course of the last half decade, Williams has fully embraced an identity as a wildly prolific scorer off the bench. Over the course of the last two seasons alone he’s thrived in systems that have had no reason but to let him loose on their second unit and the volume shooter has shown no signs of slowing down north of 30. It may be a bit much to expect Williams to yield anything in the realm of former Clipper J.J. Redick‘s offseason haul ($23MM for a one-year deal with Philly) but there should be plenty of suitors willing to give 2015’s Sixth Man of the Year a sizable raise over his current $7MM salary.

Player ages as of July 1, 2018. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Clippers Notes: Offseason Moves, Jordan, Redick

When Chris Paul was set to leave the Clippers this offseason, letting Blake Griffin walk as well and bottoming out as part of a rebuild would have been one option for the club, but it wasn’t one that management seriously considered, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN. Without all their future draft picks in hand, the Clippers weren’t well positioned for a rebuild, and the idea went against owner Steve Ballmer‘s philosophy for the franchise.

“You consider all your options,” Ballmer said. “But I don’t want to lose. I like winning. Winning is good. Losing is bad. We think we have a unique opportunity to be a free-agent destination. If you want that, you have to be doing your best every year.”

Lowe’s deep dive into the Clippers includes several more noteworthy tidbits and is worth reading in full. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • DeAndre Jordan‘s future looms large for the Clippers, since he’s eligible for free agency next summer. According to Lowe, Los Angeles has explored trading Jordan, but the only time the team “gained semiserious traction” on anything was at the 2017 deadline. That proposed deal would have sent Jordan to the Rockets in exchange for Clint Capela, players, and picks.
  • The Clippers have discussed a possible contract extension with Jordan, but those talks have stalled for now, says Lowe. Jordan, who is currently negotiating without an agent, remains extension-eligible all the way up until June 30, but would be eligible for a bigger payday if he becomes a free agent next July.
  • Although the Clippers weren’t looking to part ways with Paul this offseason, they embraced the opportunity for a “fresh start” when he decided to leave. Players say the culture wasn’t as toxic as it may have seemed, but Doc Rivers acknowledges – without referring specifically to CP3 – “don’t want to be coached by you anymore.”
  • Rivers suggests that J.J. Redick was “begging to come back” to the Clippers as a free agent, a claim that Redick disputes. “There was never any indication from my agent that I wanted to go back,” Redick said to Lowe. “I didn’t beg to come back. I didn’t want to come back.”
  • Rivers also disputed reports that the Clippers could have traded Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford for Carmelo Anthony earlier this year, calling that idea a “complete joke.” However, Lowe suggests that Rivers may be playing a “game of semantics,” noting that such a package could have been viable if Crawford was sent to a third team instead of New York.

Pacific Notes: Curry, Iguodala, Clippers, Suns

Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala were both fined for their behavior during the Warriors‘ 111-101 loss to the Grizzlies on October 21st. Curry was docked $50K for flinging his mouthpiece at an official. Iguodala’s fine was less severe — $15K for verbally abusing an official.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was not too rattled by Curry’s antics, sarcastically offering, “I think he should be suspended eight, maybe 10 games. It was egregious. It was awful.”

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Austin Rivers proffered that the Clippers are a better team without Chris Paul. While careful to note that Paul is a great player, Rivers said that the team has improved its cohesion and competitiveness. “I think we have more talent this year,” Rivers said, per Elliott Teaford of The Daily Breeze. “Look how many pieces we got for one guy. We got a defensive dog (Patrick Beverley). We drafted well.”
  • With the Suns exploring potential trades involving Eric Bledsoe, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders notes (via Twitter) that Phoenix “looked hard” at Cavaliers swingman Iman Shumpert over the summer, but Shumpert’s player option is a problem for the club.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made an immediate impact on the Lakers during his debut against the Pelicans. As Bill Oram of The Orange County Register details, Caldwell-Pope nailed a three less than 30 seconds into the game and gives coach Luke Walton a legitimate “3-and-D” option.

L.A. Notes: Griffin, Rivers, Bogut, Ball

The Clippers enjoyed their trip to Hawaii both on and off the court, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. L.A. split a pair of games with the Raptors, and the players believe the experience helped to unify a team that lost Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford over the summer.

There was good news regarding star forward Blake Griffin, who was able to play without any lingering effects from surgery on his right big toe in May. Milos Teodosic showed off the passing that made him highly sought after in Europe, Patrick Beverley brought the hard-nosed defense that was his calling card in Houston and Lou Williams showed he can replace Crawford’s scoring off the bench. Also, the Lob City swagger lives on without Paul. “I don’t think we ever lost that,” said DeAndre Jordan. “We’ve got guys who can make passes like that. We’ve got myself, Blake, Willie [Reed], Montrezl [Harrell], guys like that rolling and able to play above the rim.”

There’s more tonight from Los Angeles:

  • The only bad news for the Clippers is on the injury front, Turner adds. Austin Rivers “is going to be out for a while” after straining a right gluteal muscle in the first game, said coach Doc Rivers.
  • Veteran center Andrew Bogut believes his young Lakers teammates can benefit from his experience, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Bogut signed a one-year, partially guaranteed deal with the Lakers last month as he tries to prove he can come back from a tibia fracture he suffered in March. He is projected as a backup to Brook Lopez, one of the few veterans on the squad. “I have been through pretty much everything in this league, especially injury-wise, and been on championship teams, winningest teams, crappiest teams, teams with a lot of turnovers,” Bogut said. “I have seen everything.”
  • Rookie point guard Lonzo Ball has already become the face of the Lakers, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. The team has a lot invested in the overall No. 2 pick, who  impressed his older teammates with his performance in camp. L.A. has lost at least 55 games in each of the past four seasons and needs the 19-year-old to emerge as a leader. “The way he plays the game of basketball, everywhere he goes … if he went to a rec center, people would follow him because he makes people better,” said coach Luke Walton. “That’s what great leaders do.”

Pacific Notes: Rivers, Looney, Bennett

If Austin Rivers is going to silence naysayers who claim his career has been propped up by his head coach father, now is as good an opportunity as any. Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times spoke with the 25-year-old Clippers guard about life after Chris Paul.

Rivers averaged 12.0 points per game in 74 games for the Clippers last season but drove that up to 16.1 in 29 games as a starter. With Paul and shooting guard J.J. Redick  no longer with the squad, he could see a lot more time as a primary scoring option.

Rivers also spoke about the rumor that Paul requested a trade because Doc Rivers, then still the president of basketball operations, refused to trade his son in an effort to bring Carmelo Anthony to the Clippers.

I talked to him after that rumor came out, confronted him about it and he said it wasn’t coming from him or coming from his camp,” Austin said. “So we left it at that.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Although the mission was to get the Kings into the postseason when he signed on with the team, head coach Dave Joerger is comfortable with and committed to the rebuild at hand, too, Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee writes.
  • Now down to 232 pounds, the lightest he’s been in years, 24-year-old Anthony Bennett is ready to resuscitate his career, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic writes. The former first-overall pick is on a non-guaranteed deal with the Suns.
  • The Warriors could wait until the deadline to accept Kevon Looney‘s fourth-year option, Anthony Slater of the Athletic writes. The forward has been hard-struck by injuries over the course of the past few years but could finally be ready to show potential.

Western Notes: Rivers, Hill, Holiday, Thunder

Austin Rivers refuted reports that Chris Paul wanted to leave the Clippers in part because of a strained relationship between them, Sam Amick of USA Today reports. Rivers spoke to Paul by phone shortly after the rumor surfaced and Paul assured him that there was nothing to it, Amick continues. “Chris was just like, ‘This is a joke,'” Rivers told Amick. “So I asked him, I’m like, ‘You don’t need to come out and say nothing publicly, I don’t need you to do that. It’s just going to make it even more, now they’re going to drag it out two more days. I’ll take it. I don’t care.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • The Kings’ promise that they were not in tank mode next season helped to sway point guard George Hill to sign with them, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. Hill signed a three-year, $57MM contract to join Sacramento. “A couple of teams I was in talks to really weren’t focused on winning,” Hill said. “A couple teams wanted to win. Sacramento called and said we have a lot of young guys but we’re not here to tank, we want to win and we want to do it the right way and if we take our lumps and bruises, we’ll take our lumps and bruises but we’re trying to win.”
  • DeMarcus Cousins is entering his walk year and Jrue Holiday is already lobbying him to re-sign with the Pelicans, William Guillory of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes. Holiday stayed with New Orleans by signing a five-year, $126MM deal as an unrestricted free agent. Cousins is no longer eligible for the designated player extension because the Kings dealt him. He can still sign an extension but can make more in free agency, Guillory notes.
  • Center Dakari Johnson is a candidate for one of the Thunder’s final two roster spots, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Johnson, the team’s second-round pick in 2015, has spent the last two seasons with the Oklahoma City Blue. A spot will be available if forward Nick Collison declines to re-sign or if the team waives guard Semaj Christon, Dawson adds.

Los Angeles Notes: Rivers, Jordan, Lopez, Simon

Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers is denying a report that an ongoing feud between his son, Austin, and Chris Paul led to Paul’s trade to Houston today, according to Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. In a series of tweets, Doc Rivers thanked Paul for his years of service and called his departure a “big loss” for the team. He also said there have been rumors floating around that Paul was clashing with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as well as Austin Rivers.

“We’ve heard all the stories about Blake and DJ and Austin,” Doc Rivers said (Twitter link). “I can’t comment just on Austin because it’s just not right. We’ve heard he left because of all three today (Twitter link). There is a lot of speculation on why he left. The one thing I know is he didn’t leave because of any of those three guys (Twitter link). He left because he felt like he would have a better chance to win somewhere else.” (Twitter link)

There’s more today out of Los Angeles:

  • The Clippers may re-examine the idea of trading Jordan now that Paul is gone, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. Jordan and Griffin are something of an awkward pairing with both preferring to play near the basket, and Lowe suggests that the problem will worsen without an elite point guard on the floor. L.A.’s front office took several calls about Jordan last week and may decide to move him if the organization is headed toward a rebuilding project. Jordan has a player option worth a little more than $24MM for 2018/19.
  • The Lakers‘ trade for Brook Lopez last week was about more than just cap relief, relays Mark Medina of The Orange County Register. Lopez, who grew up in North Hollywood, was acquired from the Nets along with the 27th pick in the draft in exchange for D’Angelo Russell and the three years and $48MM left on Timofey Mozgov‘s contract. “A lot of those emotions turned into general excitement with this opportunity to come back home and chance to lead the franchise back to success,” Lopez said today as he met the L.A. media. “I want to be out there teaching the young guys and being a guy that [coach] Luke [Walton] can rely on and do whatever he asks.”
  • Despite talk that the Lakers will save their big free agency moves for next summer, new GM Rob Pelinka told Medina that he wants to contend right away (Twitter link). “We don’t see next year at all as a rebuilding year,” Pelinka said. “We see next year as a Lakers year.”
  • Miles Simon has been added to the Lakers‘ coaching staff, the team announced on its website. The Most Outstanding Player of the 1997 NCAA Tournament, Simon has recent coaching experience with USA Basketball, capturing gold medals at several junior levels.

Latest On The Chris Paul Trade

Chris Paul‘s departure from the Clippers today severed a relationship that began to fall apart when the team acquired Austin Rivers in 2015, according to a Facebook post from Michael Eaves of ESPN. Several Clippers believed Rivers brought an entitled attitude to the team because he is the son of coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers. Veterans didn’t think Austin Rivers tried hard enough to fit in, which created dissension in the locker room. Paul, in particular, thought that Austin Rivers got preferential treatment from his father.

The situation reportedly reached a breaking point prior to the trade deadline when the Knicks offered Carmelo Anthony and Sasha Vujacic to L.A. in exchange for Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce and Austin Rivers. Doc Rivers blocked the deal, which led Paul to believe that coaching his son was more important than winning, with an unidentified league executive saying, “Chris despises Doc.”

There’s more fallout from today’s blockbuster trade:

  • The decision to opt in for the final year of his contract gives Paul more flexibility if he wants to team up with LeBron James next summer, Eaves notes in the same post. He mentions the Rockets, Lakers and possibly the Clippers, if Doc Rivers is gone, as potential destinations for that to happen. In the meantime, Paul can see how well his game meshes with James Harden‘s and gets a financial windfall because Texas doesn’t have a state income tax.
  • Austin Rivers denied on Twitter that he had anything to do with Paul’s desire to leave. “These false rumors are comedy…so fictional it’s actually amusing! People will say or do anything to get attention,” he posted. He concluded the message with “A lot of clowns out there,” using two clown emoji symbols.
  • The Clippers were concerned about the later years of Paul’s next contract, tweets David Aldridge of TNT. A five-year deal in excess of $200MM would have paid Paul nearly $45MM at age 37, and L.A. wasn’t willing to make that commitment.
  • Newly hired Clippers consultant Jerry West didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting with Paul, according to Chris Broussard of Fox Sports 1 (Twitter link).
  • The Rockets would have preferred to clear cap space by trading Ryan Anderson, but there wasn’t much of a market available, reports Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. Two teams that were interested asked for two first-round picks in exchange for taking the three years and $60MM left on Anderson’s contract.
  • Trading for Paul before July 1st will allow the Rockets to enter free agency over the salary cap, Lowe adds, giving them access to a full midlevel exception worth more than $8MM and a biannual exception topping $3MM.
  • The Rockets will continue to pursue other stars, but probably can’t offer Trevor Ariza in any deal, according to Lowe. Paul remains close with his former teammate in New Orleans, and the chance to reunite played a decision in Paul’s decision to pick Houston. The Clippers, Lowe relays, had made several attempts to obtain Ariza.
  • Rockets GM Daryl Morey credits Harden for making today’s trade happen. In a video posted by Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston, Morey says the Rockets now have the two best playmakers in the league.

Pacific Notes: Iguodala, Gay, Bell, Rivers, Pre-Draft Workouts

While Andre Iguodala is no longer the All-Star caliber athlete capable of memorable dunks, he is a vital cog on both sides of the ball for the championship winning Warriors, Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle writes.

Iguodala, 33, has not averaged double-digits in points since joining Golden State in 2013 but his play in the 2015 NBA Finals, the first five games of last year’s series, and the first game of this year’s showdown displayed his value. As Letourneau mentions, had the Cavaliers not completed an improbable comeback last year, Iguodala may have been the NBA Finals Most Valuable Award recipient.

After knee and back troubles in recent years, Iguodala is now a key part of the Golden State bench. Following his seven points, three rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes on Thursday, the Warriors will look for similar contributions the rest of the series.“It’s only going to get harder from here,” Iguodala said. “We just have to stay locked in.”

Here are additional notes from the Pacific division:

  • The Lakers are set to hold a pre-draft workout for several collegiate players this Monday, according to the team. The list of players scheduled for the workout includes Richmond forward T.J. Cline, Oklahoma State point guard Jawun Evans, Villanova guard Josh Hart, California’s Roger Moute a Bidias, Iowa State point guard Monte Morris, and Syracuse forward Tyler Roberson.
  • Former Clippers teammates Glen Davis and Austin Rivers engaged in a mini-feud this week, starting with Rivers’ comments on FS1’s Undisputed that Davis was out of shape, constantly late, and struggled to remember players during his brief L.A. tenure (via NBC Sports). Davis subsequently shot back with an expletive-laden Instagram post, claiming that Rivers walked around with a cocky disposition and that he owes his career to his father.
  • Coming off Achilles surgery, forward Rudy Gay was seen at Roc Nation Pro Day earlier this week and reportedly looked in good shape, per Jonathan Givony of Draft Express (via Twitter). Gay, 30, played in 30 regular season games with the Kings before suffering the injury and is expected to exercise his opt-out and hit free agency this offseason.
  • Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes that Oregon’s Jordan Bell is an intruiging target for the Kings in the NBA Draft. Known for his toughness and defensive prowess, Bell could add a strong dimension to a Kings team in transition following the trade deadline trade sending DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans.
  • Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic writes that SMU forward Semi Ojeleye is a good target for the Suns in the second round draft. A built body and athleticism give Ojelye a good shot to mold into a productive NBA player despite limited college experience.
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