Austin Rivers

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.

Knicks Notes: Carmelo, Trade Scenarios, Ntilikina

The Clippers have been frequently cited as a potential destination for Carmelo Anthony, assuming the Knicks forward is willing to waive his no-trade clause. But after another early playoff exit, Doc Rivers‘ club will have some major decisions to face even before determining whether an Anthony trade is possible.

As Marc Berman of The New York Post writes, the belief around the NBA right now is that the Clippers will make every effort to lock up Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to new deals, but may not push quite as hard to retain veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick. If that’s the case, Berman writes, then several NBA executives believe there’s only one trade scenario involving Carmelo and the Clippers that would make sense — signing-and-trading Redick along with Austin Rivers and perhaps Wesley Johnson in exchange for Anthony and maybe one of the Knicks’ two second-round picks.

The math for that hypothetical swap would work, depending on Redick’s new contract, and one NBA executive suggests to Berman that “it’s really the only thing that makes sense.” Another exec believes it would be a good trade for the Knicks, who would get a reliable shooter in Redick and a good sixth man in Rivers. Whether the Clippers, Knicks, and Carmelo could all get on the same page on such a deal remains to be seen, however.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • In a piece for Basketball Insiders, Tommy Beer runs through a number of possible trade scenarios involving Anthony, including theoretical proposals for long-shot suitors like the Trail Blazers, Bucks, and Pistons.
  • We heard earlier this week that GM Steve Mills was overseas scouting French point guard Frank Ntilikina, and international basketball reporter David Pick reiterates (via Twitter) that the Knicks are fond of the 18-year-old prospect. Knicks scout Makhtar N’Diaye, in particular, likes Ntilikina, according to Pick.
  • While Ntilikina should still be on the board if New York picks seventh overall, the Knicks would likely be eyeing different prospects if they get some lottery luck and move into the top three. MSG Network analyst and former NBA forward Wally Szczerbiak spoke to Berman (link via New York Post) about some of the top players on draft boards who have a chance to land with the Knicks.

Knicks, Clippers Expected To Re-Open Trade Talks

Another early playoff exit for the Clippers may reignite trade talks with the Knicks involving Carmelo Anthony, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.

The teams had extensive discussions before the February deadline, but New York’s front office turned down several L.A. proposals. The difference this time might be shooting guard J.J. Redick, whom the Clippers were not willing to include before, but may be available now in a sign-and-trade.

Like many observers, Berman expects a shakeup in Los Angeles this summer. Chris Paul is almost certain to opt out and re-sign, and he would love to see the team acquire Anthony, a long-time friend. An offer centered around Redick and Austin Rivers might be enough to make it happen.

The 32-year-old Redick would replace Jamal Crawford in the package that the Clippers were offering in February. An 11-year veteran, he averaged 15.0 points per game this season and shot .429 from 3-point range. One of the top long-distance shooters in the league throughout his career, Redick would fill an obvious need in New York.

Rivers, 25, would fill another need with his defensive prowess and his flexibility to play three positions. He re-signed with the Clippers last summer and is under contract through next season, with a $12.65MM player option for 2018/19.

Berman estimates a new deal for Redick starting at $11MM, which would combine with Rivers’ $11.8MM salary to get the Clippers close to Anthony’s $28MM price (including a 15% trade kicker). Another Knick who might be included in the deal is Courtney Lee (more than $11.7MM next year), whom the Clippers asked about in February, so the trade could become much larger. L.A. doesn’t have a first-round pick to offer until 2021.

With a no-trade clause in hand, Anthony will have final approval on any deal. While the thought of joining Paul, DeAndre Jordan and possibly Blake Griffin on a contending team might appeal to him, Berman notes that personal matters could affect his decision. Anthony recently separated from his wife, LaLa, and may not want to move far away from his son.

While that will play out over the summer, it’s clear that the playoffs have changed the dynamics of the deal, just as Knicks president Phil Jackson predicted at his press conference last month.

“You lose in the first round, it didn’t work out, we gotta change some people on our team,’’ Jackson said. “So there may be some quick outs may change some people’s minds as to what they’re going to do.”

Clippers Expect Austin Rivers To Return For Game 5

4:18 pm: Rivers said his son will play in Tuesday’s contest, but he’ll be on a minutes restriction, as Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times relays (Twitter link).

12:44 pm: Health issues have wreaked havoc on the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Jazz and Clippers, with standout big men Rudy Gobert and Blake Griffin both sustaining injuries of varying severity during the first four games. One player who has yet to make his 2017 postseason debut in the series appears to be ready to return though.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Clippers expect Austin Rivers to play in Game 5 on Tuesday. Rivers will be on a minutes restriction for the game, league sources tell Wojnarowski.

Rivers was initially sidelined with a left hamstring back in March, with head coach Doc Rivers suggesting earlier this month that the injury was “a little more serious” than initially believed. Shortly after he first went down, the younger Rivers said that he expected to get back on the court in time for the start of the playoffs, but his return was delayed by another week and a half.

Assuming Rivers is able to play on Tuesday, his return will give the Clippers some flexibility to use smaller lineups, particularly with Griffin sidelined for the postseason. In addition to providing solid perimeter defense, Rivers will give Los Angeles another outside shooting option — he made a career-high 37.1% of his three-point attempts during the regular season.

The Clippers and Jazz are tied at 2-2 heading into Game 5.

Pacific Notes: McGee, Kings, Redick, Rivers

Draymond Green played a crucial role in the Warriors’ decision to sign journeyman center JaVale McGee last summer, as Sam Amick of USA Today explains. They share the same agent, B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman, and Green lobbied GM Bob Myers to give McGee a chance. McGee, who appeared in just 62 games over the previous four seasons, signed a contract for less then $1MM and has emerged as a valuable role player. “I didn’t know him that well at all, but you [could] see some of the skills that a guy has and see that, alright that could possibly fit in,” Green told Amick. “Being that he’s super athletic, he offered something that we didn’t have.” McGee will re-enter the free agent market this summer and should be in greater demand.

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings have hired Luke Bornn as their VP of Analytics and Strategy, James Ham of NBC Sports California reports. Bornn, 31, was working for soccer’s A.S. Roma. “We’ll be looking at more advanced modeling tools often with the player tracking data to try and get a deeper understanding of player performance,” Bornn told Ham. Roland Beech, the team’s previous analytics guru, left the organization earlier this week.
  • Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick has gotten off just 13 shots in the first two games of the playoffs, but coach Doc Rivers appreciates his unselfish approach, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Redick has scored 11 points in the series under heavy defensive pressure but the team hopes to get him more involved in Game 3 on Friday, Turner adds. “Sometimes in certain games and series, you have to give yourself up to get the team stuff,” Rivers told the assembled media on Thursday. “J.J. has been terrific with that. He’s going to get his shot eventually.”
  • Clippers guard Austin Rivers will miss Game 3 with a strained left hamstring but remains hopeful of returning for Game 4, Turner reports in a separate story. Rivers has not played the last eight games, including the final six of the regular season.

Clippers Notes: Austin Rivers, D-League, Ingles

Austin Rivers will miss at least one more game of the playoff series with the Jazz because of a left hamstring strain that he suffered late in the season, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. His father and coach, Doc Rivers, said Austin went through a shooting session Saturday for the first time since the injury. He also did some light sprints and dribbling drills as the workout went better than a previous attempt. “I was on the court three or four days ago,” Austin Rivers told Bill Oram of The Orange County Register, “and it didn’t really go as I planned. Didn’t feel good and they took me off and waited a couple more days, with a little treatment and stuff like that. Today we tried it again and it worked.” He is aiming to be ready for Game 3 Friday night in Utah.

There’s more today out of Los Angeles:

  • The Clippers are hoping to add a D-League franchise next season, reports Adam Johnson of D-League Digest. The original plan was to have a team in place for 2018/19, but the organization decided it doesn’t want to wait that long. Ontario, California, is the preferred location, and the Clippers are awaiting league approval for that site. If that doesn’t work out, Johnson suggests Bakersfield as an alternative. The city hosted the Bakersfield Jam before that franchise was purchased by the Suns and moved to Northern Arizona. The new team would be the 26th in the D-League and the fourth to join next season.
  • The Clippers are facing Utah’s Joe Ingles in the playoffs three years after waiving him. Doc Rivers says the move was necessary because of another contract that the Clippers were obligated to keep, tweets Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. That contract belonged to Jared Cunningham, who only spent 19 games in L.A., according to Dan Woike of DanWoikeSports (Twitter link). Ingles was waived by the Clippers on October 25th, 2014, and claimed by the Jazz two days later.
  • The Clippers should have been more inspired in Game 1 considering that their long-term future is at stake, writes Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin can both opt out this summer, and the core of the team could be broken up with another early playoff exit.

Clippers Notes: Austin Rivers, Griffin, Doc Rivers

Austin Rivers is targeting the middle of a first-round playoff series as a realistic return date, relays Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Rivers is sidelined by a left hamstring strain that he suffered Wednesday against Washington. There’s no timetable for him to play again, but the general feeling is that he will be ready sometime in late April. “The goal was game one of the playoffs,” Rivers said, “but it’s looking like hopefully mid first round, early second round. We’ll see. You never know, I might heal faster than I think so. In my mind, my goal is to be back by the first round, for game one or game two, which is ideal. So, we’ll see.” The playoffs will start two weeks from today.

There’s more news out of Los Angeles:

  • After becoming the first player to reach 10,000 points in a Clippers uniform, Blake Griffin wanted to focus more on the postseason than his future in L.A., writes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Griffin scored 36 today in a win over the Lakers, then brushed aside questions about free agency. “I’ve loved my time here, absolutely,” he said. “But my main focus right now is the season. I said this before the season, I’m not doing the whole free agency talk. I’m not talking about any decision I can’t make right now. Like I said, my main focus is getting this team right and moving forward and being right heading into the playoffs.”
  • Also reaching a milestone today was coach Doc Rivers, who posted his 800th career victory, Oram notes in the same story. Those wins have come over 18 seasons with the Magic, Celtics and Clippers. “I’ve learned everything is a big deal,” Rivers said, “but you don’t have to sweat it all.”
  • The Clippers are just 33-29 after a 14-2 start and there is concern that the core could be broken up this summer, writes Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. With Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick all headed toward free agency, Plaschke thinks a significant playoff run will be needed to justify keeping the team together.
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