Austin Rivers

Southwest Notes: Zion, Rivers, Mavs, Hardy

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson continues to grapple with a $100MM civil suit from attorneys representing his former marketing manager Gina Ford and her company Prime Sports Marketing, per Mark Schlabach of ESPN. Per Schlabach, the suit alleges that Williamson’s parents may have been given “improper benefits” preceding or during Williamson’s blockbuster one-season Duke tenure.

However, Williamson got some positive news on the case this week, as a Florida state appeals court has granted him a full stay. This will allow the star forward to avoid answering questions about the suit until the resolution of a federal case covering the same issues.

Here’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets backup guard Austin Rivers spoke with The Athletic’s Kelly Iko at length about a variety of issues, including the league’s Orlando restart. “They’re saying we’ll be in Orlando for at least a period of time, anywhere between 30 to 40 days without seeing our family,” Rivers said. “And I don’t want to do it. Nobody wants to do it, but we all have to sacrifice if you want to have the season, resume and that’s what we have to do.” Rivers inked a veteran’s minimum contract with Houston in the hopes of winning a title, despite apparently fielding heftier offers from non-contenders.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has indicated that team stars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are set to return to Dallas within the week, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link). Doncic, a second-year guard, has been having a breakout season in Dallas. Voted an All-Star starter in the competitive West, Doncic is averaging 28.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, and 8.7 APG on the 40-27 Mavericks.
  • In case you missed it earlier today, Spurs assistant Will Hardy reportedly ranks among the coaching candidates who will interview for the Knicks’ head job. The 32-year-old Hardy has been with the Spurs in some capacity since 2010, when he got his start with the team as a basketball operations intern. He became an assistant coach in 2016.

Hiatus Notes: Howard, Rivers, Green, Beverley

Lakers center Dwight Howard believes the NBA should reconsider its plans of returning next month due to the ongoing racial injustice problems in the United States, claiming that the resumption of a season could prove to be a distraction.

Howard, an eight-time NBA All-Star, issued the following statement on the matter (as relayed by CNN’s Jill Martin):

“I agree with Kyrie [Irving]. Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction. Sure it might not distract us players, but we have resources at hand [the] majority of our community don’t have. And the smallest distraction for them can start a trickle-down effect that may never stop. Especially with the way the climate is now. I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just to [sic] beautiful to pass up. 

“What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families. This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should be taking full advantage of. When have we ever had this amount of time to sit and be with our families. This is where our Unity starts. At home! With Family!! European Colonization stripped us of our rich history, and we have yet to sit down and figure us out. The less distractions, the more we can put into action into rediscovering ourselves. Nations come out of families. Black/African American is not a Nation or Nationality. It’s time Our Families became their own Nations. No Basketball till we get things resolved.”

Multiple players (including Irving) agree on the matter, with Irving voicing his concerns during a conference call that included dozens of the league’s players on Friday. Several other players are in disagreement, however, citing financial implications, competitive aspects, and a dire need for sports in such an unprecedented time.

The NBA is still working on finalizing details for the resumed 2019/2020 season, which was suspended indefinitely in March due to COVID-19. The league is currently eyeing a July 30 return date, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Here are some other notes related to the NBA’s hiatus:

  • Rockets guard Austin Rivers holds a different opinion than Howard about whether the NBA season should resume, posting his comments in an Instagram reply (as relayed by ESPN). “Us coming back would put money in all of our (NBA players’) pockets,” Rivers said as part of a larger quote. “With this money you could help out even more people and continue to give more importantly your time and energy towards the BLM movement. Which I’m 100% on board with. Because change needs to happen and injustice has been going on too long.”
  • Lakers guard Danny Green detailed the different aspects of the NBA’s restart plan in a Q&A with Mark Medina of USA Today. Green touched on a number of subjects, including concerns about the NBA’s “bubble,” player feedback, and his level of optimism on the league’s expected return.
  • Clippers guard Patrick Beverley had a rather interesting take on whether the NBA should return, posting the following on social media. Hoopers say what y’all want. If @KingJames said he hooping. We all hooping. Not Personal only BUSINESS #StayWoke.” Beverley is part of a talented Clippers team seeking its first ever championship this year, with both the Clippers and the Lakers battling for bragging rights in Los Angeles.

Southwest Notes: Jackson Jr., Ivey, Rivers, D’Antoni

The Grizzlies will have to defend their playoff position if the NBA can salvage a significant amount of its regular season, but Jaren Jackson Jr. doesn’t mind as long as he can get back to basketball, writes Jason Munz of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Memphis held a three-and-a-half-game cushion over the Trail Blazers, Pelicans and Kings for the eighth spot when the hiatus began. The NBA has discussed scenarios that include going straight to the playoffs or fitting in a few more regular-season games.

“I mean, whatever. I’m down just to play, honestly,” Jackson said. “I know there’s talks about if they need games before the playoffs to get us ready for the playoffs, or they just want to hop right into (the postseason). I would be cool with either, honestly. We’re in the playoffs (if the regular season ended today), so I’m biased. I’d rather just run it.”

Jackson, who is among the many players without access to a basketball hoop during the shutdown, also addressed the potential adjustment of playing in empty arenas.

“I think we’ve all, at some point, played AAU or some form of it,” he said. “Whether you were overseas or not, like, you played a certain type of amateur basketball that is kind of like that. So it will definitely remind you of that and bring back memories. I think everybody will be fine, honestly.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies assistant Niele Ivey is the new women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame, the team announced today. She came to Memphis in the offseason after 12 years as an assistant with the Fighting Irish. “In her first year with the Memphis Grizzlies, Niele made a lasting impact on the floor, but even more so off the floor through her relationships with the players, fellow coaches and staff, including the relationship we built coach-to-coach,” said Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins.
  • Rockets guard Austin Rivers is likely to opt out of his $2.4MM salary for next season and test free agency, states Danny Leroux of The Athletic, who previews Houston’s offseason along with Kelly Iko. The Rockets hold Early Bird rights on Rivers and can start his new contract at nearly $10MM per season without having to use their mid-level exception.
  • If Houston decides to part with head coach Mike D’Antoni, who is in the final year of his contract, Leroux suggests the Pelicans might be his best destination. Of course, that could only happen if New Orleans decides to fire coach Alvin Gentry. Leroux notes that D’Antoni has connections with Pelicans VP of basketball operations David Griffin from their time together in Phoenix and might bring the best offensive philosophy to help develop Zion Williamson.

Rockets Being Aggressive On Trade Market

It’s never surprising that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is looking to make a deal, especially around the trade deadline, and Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle reports that a shortage of assets hasn’t prevented Morey has being as active as ever.

A source tells Feigen that the Rockets are hoping to trade their 2020 first-round pick for a player who can help right away. They haven’t targeted a specific position, but Feigen assumes point guard is off the table with Russell Westbrook and James Harden handling the playmaking duties.

Morey doesn’t seem to mind parting with a first-rounder, even though the team will be short on them in upcoming years. Houston sent first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 to the Thunder in the Westbrook deal, along with the option to switch picks in 2021 and 2025.

Feigen speculates that the team may be more interested in adding someone in the frontcourt rather than at the wing, where Rivers, Eric Gordon and Ben McLemore are all available and Thabo Sefolosha has been seeing an increase in playing time.

In addition to the first-rounder, Houston has Nene‘s contract, along with trade exceptions valued from $1.5MM to $3.6MM, as assets to try to get a deal done. Feigen notes that beyond the Rockets’ core, Austin Rivers and Gerald Green both have restrictions that enable them to veto any trade, while Chris Clemons can’t be moved because he just signed a three-year contract in late December.

Feigen adds that the Rockets also have a history of being aggressive on the buyout market and may have hopes of landing Andre Iguodala if they can’t find a deal they like.

Southwest Notes: Forbes, Porzingis, Rivers, Zion

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News wonders if Spurs shooting guard Bryn Forbes can retain the deft stroke he employed in the team’s recent 135-133 double overtime defeat of the Rockets. Forbes racked up 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field, including a sparkling five-of-six from deep.

If Forbes can shoot well enough, he should remain entrenched as the Spurs’ starting two guard, McDonald writes. Forbes himself expressed confidence that he could: “I’ve put in a lot of work, and I don’t do it to miss shots.” 

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks‘ 7’3″ sharp-shooting, shot-blocking “Unicorn,” has adapted his game since being traded from the Knicks. The explosive offensive fire power of his triple-doubling teammate Luka Doncic has impacted how KP can best help in Dallas. The Athletic’s Shams Charania unpacks how the 24 year-old has adapted his shot profile and playmaking in Dallas, upon signing a five-year, $158MM extension in July. “Some nights I get more opportunities and some nights I don’t get as many opportunities,” Porzingis told Charania. “But most nights, we give Luka the ball and let him f***ing go.”
  • Ahead of what would become a 115-109 Rockets victory last night, guard Austin Rivers had high praise for current Suns coach Monty Williams. Williams served as Rivers’ first head coach when both were with the Pelicans (then the Hornets). “I’ll tell you, in terms of on-the-ball defense, I think I’m as good as anybody,” Rivers said, per The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen. “I really do give credit to Monty. He was so on me about defense, it’s all I thought about.” Rivers re-signed with the Rockets this summer on a two-year,$4.5MM veteran’s minimum contract.
  • Much-ballyhooed Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson, the 2019 No. 1 pick, has started partaking in light on-court team work recently, but he had yet to begin on-court work as of December 4. Williamson will not make the original six-to-eight-week knee surgery recovery window projected by Pelicans brass. William Guillory of The Athletic opines that New Orleans’ cardinal sin, though, is a lack of defensive effort or hustle, and Zion won’t be able to solve that issue on his own.

Rockets Re-Sign Austin Rivers

JULY 17: The Rockets have officially re-signed Rivers, the team announced today in a press release.

JULY 1: The Rockets will re-sign point guard Austin Rivers on a two-year deal, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. The second season in the agreement contains a player option. Rivers’ new deal will be worth the minimum, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Rivers, 26, first signed with Houston on a free-agent deal in December. He provided production off the bench behind Chris Paul and James Harden in 47 games, averaging 8.7 points and 2.3 assists per contest.

“I’m just very excited,” Rivers said, according to Mark Berman of Fox 26. “Happy to be on a playoff team.”

Rivers, the No. 10 pick in 2012, spent time with the Pelicans, Clippers and Wizards before joining the Rockets. Houston already came to terms with free agents Gerald Green and Danuel House during the first day of free agency.

Because he’s re-signing with his previous team on a two-year deal with a second-year option, Rivers will have the ability to veto trades in 2019/20, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter).

Western Notes: Russell, Suns, Beverley, Kings, Rivers, Blazers

The Timberwolves, led by D’Angelo Russell‘s close friend Karl-Anthony Towns, were confident about their ability to get a commitment from Russell in free agency and went into their Sunday meeting with him ready to make the trades necessary to make a deal work, sources tell Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Minnesota was just waiting for the green light from D-Lo to move forward on those trades, but the All-Star point guard instead opted to join the Warriors.

The Suns were viewed as a team that might try to get into the mix for Russell, who has another good friend – Devin Booker – in Phoenix. However, despite Booker’s campaign, Phoenix chose not to pursue the RFA guard, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. According to Rankin, the Suns “apparently felt Russell wouldn’t have been a good influence on Booker off the court.”

The Warriors, with their veteran leaders, apparently had no such qualms about D-Lo, who – by all accounts – matured considerably during his time in Brooklyn.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • After agreeing to sign a three-year, $40MM deal with the Clippers, Patrick Beverley tells Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times that he turned down a more lucrative offer from the Kings to return to L.A. “I got a bigger offer from Sacramento and I took $9-10 million less to come here,” Beverley said. “… It was the right decision. Of course, the human part of you wants to take as much money as you see, but all money isn’t good money. I did what was best for me and my family and I did what was best to stay on a winning team, and I feel like I made the right decision.”
  • Despite Beverley’s comments, Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link) hears that the Kings offered the veteran guard a guaranteed total of $35MM over three years, with a partial guarantee in year three. Theoretically, it’s possible that Beverley’s claim could still be accurate if that third-year partial guarantee was very small and he’s including the non-guaranteed money as part of Sacramento’s bid.
  • Before he agreed to return to the Rockets for the veteran’s minimum, Austin Rivers had offers in the range of the $5.7MM taxpayer mid-level exception, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. “Now that the league is wide open, I just saw an opportunity,” Rivers said. “You can’t really put a price on happiness. The goal was to come back to Houston all along. I think we have the team to beat.”
  • The Trail Blazers have announced Terry Stotts‘ coaching staff for the upcoming season, with Nate Tibbetts replacing David Vanterpool as the team’s associate head coach. Portland has also promoted Jim Moran to the front of the bench and hired former NBA guard Jannero Pargo as an assistant.

Rockets Rumors: Butler, Rivers, Faried, FA Targets

While the odds appear to be stacked against them, the Rockets are “extremely confident” in their ability to acquire Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade deal, Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes in his preview of Houston’s free agency. According to Iko, team sources not only believe that the Rockets have a good shot at Butler, but also feel as if they’re in the lead for him.

In order for the Rockets to sign-and-trade for Butler, the Sixers would have to be on board, which is a big “if.” But Sam Amick of The Athletic hears from a source that Philadelphia would likely be open to cooperating if necessary, since the team has a “strong desire” to avoid losing Butler for nothing.

As ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst pointed out on a recent podcast, in order for the Sixers to believe that losing Butler for nothing is a real possibility, the swingman would likely need to have a potential alternate landing spot besides Houston. That alternate landing spot could be Los Angeles, as Amick also reports that the possibility of Butler and Kawhi Leonard both joining the Clippers is a scenario that’s viewed by sources as “increasingly possible.”

The Clippers would have to move Danilo Gallinari‘s salary to clear space for a second max player, but there are strong indications that Leonard would welcome Butler as a running mate, according to Amick. That echoes a Wednesday report from Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

As we wait to see what Butler’s future holds, here are some more Rockets-related notes and rumors:

  • The Rockets are targeting mid-level players whom teams might not be able to pay, according to Iko. Houston also hopes that the opportunity to compete for a title might convince certain free agents to take a little less than they might be able to earn elsewhere. The team refers to these as “contender contracts” and points to P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute as past examples, says Iko.
  • Team sources tell Iko that the Rockets have a list of about 30-to-50 potential targets. GM Daryl Morey has spoken to James Harden and Chris Paul via FaceTime about many of those players, Iko adds.
  • It’s 50/50 that Austin Rivers will return to Houston, according to Iko, who says team sources are resigned to the fact that it will be difficult to bring back Rivers and Kenneth Faried.
  • Trevor Ariza, who previously played for the Rockets, and Houston native DeAndre Jordan are potential targets for the club, Iko writes. According to Iko, there’s still “love” for Ariza within the Rockets’ organization, and team sources believe Jordan would be interested in playing for his hometown team — especially if Clint Capela gets dealt.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Zion, Valanciunas

Ja Morant met with the Grizzlies over the weekend, as Shams Charania of The Athletic passes along (Twitter link). Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian confirms that the meeting took place and hears that the point guard remains the favorite to be selected with the No. 2 overall pick.

Morant recently underwent surgery on his right knee in a procedure that was deemed preventative. The health of Morant doesn’t appear to be an issue for Memphis, though it’s not certain if the team has seen the 19-year-old’s medical records.

Here’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Zion Williamson met with the Pelicans earlier this week, Charania tweets. The Duke star is still expected to go No. 1 overall.
  • Veteran center Jonas Valanciunas has a decision to make on his $17.6MM player option and David Cobb of The Commerical Appeal contends that it may be beneficial for both sides if Valanciunas elects to play out the year under that deal. The 27-year-old may not make that kind of annual salary with a new deal and the Grizzlies would have an opportunity to see if he can be a long-term fit with the club.
  • Austin Rivers recently went on ESPN and spoke about the “frustrating” Rockets offense, as Ameer Tyree of Sporting News relays. Rivers said playing alongside James Harden‘s ball dominant game was difficult at times. “I think it works. We just have to mix it up. I think we have to a better job of mixing it up just a little bit,” the guard said.

Rockets Reportedly Willing To Pay Luxury Tax

After making a series of transactions to get below the tax threshold this season, the Rockets are willing to accept the tax next year to upgrade their roster, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

GM Daryl Morey has already received permission from ownership to make moves that will push the team into tax territory, a source tells Feigen. Morey will try to tweak the roster to better compete with the Warriors, who have eliminated the Rockets from the playoffs in four of the past five seasons.

Houston has all five of its starters under contract for next year at a total cost of about $114MM, which is already over the salary cap. Morey will have to rebuild a reserve unit that features unrestricted free agents Austin Rivers, Kenneth Faried and Iman Shumpert and restricted free agent Danuel House.

Barring a bold trade to shake up the roster, Morey’s main weapon will be a mid-level exception that could be worth $9MM but is more likely to be limited to $5.7MM. That money might be needed to re-sign one or more of the team’s free agents, or Morey could also try to find a bargain on the free agent market.

No matter how he proceeds, Morey has a huge challenge ahead of him. The Rockets need to find a dependable small forward to allow Eric Gordon to spend more time in the backcourt, Feigen notes. They also need one more reliable shooter and a power forward who can hit 3-pointers and rebound so they don’t get beaten on the boards so badly when using small lineups.