Austin Rivers

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.

Rockets Notes: Paul, Free Agents, Capela, Rosas

There are a lot of concerns in Houston after another season ended with a playoff loss to the Warriors, but the decline of Chris Paul may be the most serious issue, writes Sean Deveney of Sporting News. Paul missed at least 20 games for the third straight season, playing in 58, and his production declined in several important areas.

The nine-time All-Star posted career lows in scoring (15.6 PPG), shooting (41.9% from the field), free throw frequency (3.5 per game) and PER (19.7). He had difficulty finding his shot in the playoffs, making just one of his first 10 3-point attempts and shooting 27% from long distance.

Now 34, Paul just completed the first season of a four-year extension he signed last summer. He will make $38.5MM next season, $41.3MM in 2020/21 and has a $44.2MM option for 2021/22. Paul, James Harden and Clint Capela will consume 85% of the Rockets‘ cap space next season, Deveney notes, and are all under contract through the summer of 2022.

There’s more tonight from Houston:

  • Midseason acquisitions Austin Rivers, Kenneth Faried and Iman Shumpert may all be headed elsewhere this summer, Deveney adds. All three will be unrestricted free agents, and the Rockets won’t have much to offer beyond their mid-level exception. Deveney sees Gerald Green, who played for the veteran’s minimum this year, as likely to return.
  • Capela’s contract could be a major issue if he can’t overcome the confidence problem that seems to plague him against the Warriors, states Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Capela is owed up to approximately $72.2MM over the next four years, and although he played well during the season, he has become a matchup problem against Golden State. “He’ll learn from this, he’ll only get better,” coach Mike D’Antoni said after the Game 6 loss. “He’s only 25, he’ll get stronger. The expectations are high for him. I think he was a little below his normal stats. Could’ve been better, but I’ll go down with guys like that.”
  • The Rockets are making some front office changes after losing executive VP Gersson Rosas to the Timberwolves, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Assistant GM Jimmy Paulis has taken Rosas’ duties of coordinating the team’s scouts, and GM Daryl Morey is looking to hire someone to fill the vacancy.

Pacific Notes: Clippers, Kawhi, Rivers, Suns

Of the teams on Anthony Davis‘ reported wish list, the Bucks and Knicks likely don’t have the necessary assets to make a viable offer for the All-Star big man at this time. That leaves the Clippers as the biggest threat to the Lakers among those four preferred destinations. And while the Clips reportedly haven’t made an offer, Johan Buva of The Athletic argues that going all-in for Davis should be the franchise’s new Plan A.

[RELATED: Latest Anthony Davis Trade Rumors]

As Buva outlines, the Clippers have a plethora of assets that could interest the Pelicans, including young prospects with upside (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Montrezl Harrell), productive veterans (Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, and Patrick Beverley), and all but one of their own future first-round picks. The team has had its eye on the 2019 free agent market as it considers how to take advantage of its cap flexibility, but acquiring Davis would perhaps be a more worthwhile gamble than rolling the dice in free agency, Buva writes.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • One of the Clippers‘ offseason free agent targets, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, didn’t notice that Clips owner Steve Ballmer was sitting courtside for the club’s game in Toronto on Sunday, writes Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun. The Clippers have sent representatives to Raptors games throughout the season as they prepare to make a summer pitch to Leonard. “I’m not thinking about it right now. I’m just focused on the season,” Leonard said. “I didn’t know [Ballmer] was at the game until you guys told me. I’m focused and when that time comes we’ll have to talk and sit down with everyone and have meetings.”
  • Last week’s Kristaps Porzingis trade could have a ripple effect on teams like the Lakers and Clippers, as Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times explains. In addition to making the Knicks a more significant offseason threat for the same top free agents those L.A. teams will be chasing, the deal also turns a veteran like DeAndre Jordan into a buyout candidate. If Jordan is bought out, a reunion with the Clips would be a “definite possibility,” says Woike.
  • When he was traded from Washington to Phoenix earlier this season, Austin Rivers had a very brief stay with the Suns before being bought out. As Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic relays, Rivers explained this week that he and the lottery-bound Suns were on the same page when they acquired him. “They understood where I was at,” Rivers said. “I’m not old. I’m only 26, but where I’ve been. I’ve been on playoff teams the past five years. That’s kind of the route I wanted and I felt like was best for me, especially in a contract year. I want to be in the playoffs. I want to compete for something.”
  • Bob Young of The Athletic recently took a look at the Suns‘ trade-deadline plans and their approach to finding a long-term answer at point guard.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Southwest Division:

DeAndre Jordan, Mavericks, 30, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $24.1MM deal in 2018
Jordan has pretty much done his usual thing in his first season with Dallas, ranking second in the league in rebounding and anchoring the defense. One troubling development is his penchant for turnovers — he’s averaging a career-worst 2.4 per game. The one other surprising development is a plus — the career 45.9% free throw shooter has drained 70.3% of his attempts. The always durable Jordan has also answered the bell every game. Early concerns about about “selfish” play have somewhat dissipated. Dallas may not re-sign him but someone will give him another big contract this summer.

Austin Rivers, Rockets, 26, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.15MM deal in 2018
The above salary number doesn’t reflect what Rivers is actually making this season, as the Suns bought out his contract after he was traded from the Wizards. He had a $12.6MM salary in the final year of a four-season contract and only gave back $650K. The decision to hook on with the Rockets after he cleared waivers has been good for both parties. With Chris Paul sidelined, Rivers has averaged 12.3 PPG and 3.1 APG in 38.5 MPG in his first eight outings with a championship contender. Still in his prime, Rivers should be able to land a multi-year deal this summer.

Ivan Rabb, Grizzlies, 21, PF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $2.3MM deal in 2017
An early second-rounder in 2017, Rabb has been a force in a handful of G League games, averaging 23.4 PPG and 10.2 RPG. That hasn’t translated into NBA playing time. He hasn’t played meaningful minutes in 14 games with the Grizzlies. Interior defensive issues and the lack of 3-point shot are the main reason why the athletic big man hasn’t carved out a role. Unless they’re convinced he can improve those areas, the Grizzlies will likely cut ties with him after the season.

Darius Miller, Pelicans, 28, SF (Down) — Signed to a two-year, $4.3MM deal in 2017
Miller receives lots of playing time but his offensive contributions boil down to an occasional 3-point attempt. To be fair, Miller is the No. 5 option when he’s on the floor and he’s an above-average long-range shooter (38.7 percent). His defensive metrics are subpar, which partially explains his paltry 8.42 PER, so the 3-and-D tag doesn’t necessarily fit. Miller’s 3-point shooting could be enough to land him a veteran’s minimum deal or something slightly higher next summer but there’s no big payday ahead.

Quincy Pondexter, Spurs, 30, SF (Down)– Signed to a one-year, $2.16MM deal in 2018
Pondexter remained on the roster past January 10th, fully guaranteeing his salary for this season. Pondexter, whose career has been sidetracked by knee injuries, has been praised as a positive locker room influence but he hasn’t contributed much on the court. He’s appeared in 31 games but averaged just 5.9 MPG with a majority of his playing time coming in blowouts. Pondexter will likely struggle to find another veteran’s minimum deal in the summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Notes: Rivers, Paul, Gordon, MCW Trade

The Rockets and Austin Rivers seemed like an unlikely match, given his up-and-down history with former Clippers teammate Chris Paul. However, Rivers is thriving so far in Houston, with coach Mike D’Antoni calling him a “godsend” (Twitter link via Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston) and Rivers telling Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that he’s “the happiest I’ve been in my career.” The veteran guard also clarified that he “never had a problem” with CP3, and took the blame for the perception that there was a rift between the two ex-Clippers.

“Everything that happened was so silly and so stupid,” Rivers said. “A lot of it was on my part in terms of I let a lot of things that were said in the media about me and Chris affect me and his relationship. I accepted it like as if Chris was saying that s—, when he wasn’t doing [anything]. It ended up kind of messing us up at the time, because there was all this stuff about how we were interacting that wasn’t true.

“Me and Chris haven’t even had to say [anything] about it because we both moved on. I was just with [him] at an event at his house. It’s just crazy how in today’s age everything does revolve around social media. Social media is so powerful.”

Rivers’ conversation with Spears is worth reading in full, as the 26-year-old also discussed how being Doc Rivers‘ son affects the perception of him, why it’s a good thing that he and Doc are in separate organizations, and why he decided to sign with Houston.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Speaking today to reporters, Mike D’Antoni said that Eric Gordon might be able to return in about a week, while Chris Paul will likely miss another two or three weeks, according to Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The Rockets have been playing well without Gordon and Paul, but would surely welcome the opportunity to get their roster back to full strength.
  • Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders provides some specific details on the Rockets’ Michael Carter-Williams trade, reporting (via Twitter) that Houston received the Grizzlies’ top-55 protected 2020 second-round pick in the deal and sent $1,065,966 to the Bulls. Chicago will receive that money in five installments of approximately $73K apiece, followed by a final payment of $700K next July.
  • Pincus also recently shared the unusual salary guarantee details on Gary Clark‘s contract (all Twitter links). As Pincus explains, the following things must be true for Clark’s 2019/20 salary to become guaranteed before next January 10:
    • He appears in at least 37 games for the Rockets during the 2018/19 regular season.
    • The Rockets miss the playoffs OR Clark appears in at least two postseason games OR Clark is cut by April 10, 2019.

Rockets Notes: Rivers, Paul, Knight, Mbah A Moute

Austin Rivers is downplaying talk of a feud with Chris Paul during their five years as Clippers teammates, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Rivers, who officially signed with the Rockets yesterday, points out that he never would have been welcome in Houston if Paul hadn’t agreed to the move.

“I have no problems with Chris, as you guys will see,” Rivers said. “Obviously, if I had a problem with Chris I wouldn’t be here. Chris has a huge input on this team as he should. He’s a Hall of Fame point guard. If that was that serious, I wouldn’t be here. That will show you that’s not real.”

Paul’s latest hamstring injury, suffered last Thursday, opened the door for Rivers to become a Rocket. Houston needs backcourt help with Paul out of action for at least two weeks, and Rivers was looking for playing time on a contending team after agreeing to a buyout with the Suns, who acquired him from the Wizards earlier this month.

“This is a team I always admired and wanted to play for with (coach Mike) D’Antoni and the way they play, getting up and down,” Rivers added. “It’s a very fitting place.”

There’s more today from Houston:

  • Even though he just joined the team and hasn’t played in more than a week, Rivers won’t be on a minutes restriction as he makes his debut with the Rockets today, tweets Houston play-by-play man Craig Ackerman.
  • The addition of Rivers will cut into Brandon Knight‘s playing time, but that was the plan all along, Feigen writes in a question-and-answer column. Knight missed a year and a half with an ACL tear and only had a couple of practices before taking the court. The Rockets intended to bring him along slowly and didn’t want to increase his minutes because of Paul’s injury.
  • Rockets management had concerns about the condition of Luc Mbah a Moute‘s shoulder, which limited what they were willing to offer him in free agency, Feigen adds in the same piece. Mbah a Moute, who got $4.3MM to rejoin the Clippers, has only played four games this season, but it has been a knee issue rather than the shoulder that has limited him.