Austin Rivers

Southeast Notes: Lamb, Whiteside, Rivers

As James Borrego entered his first regular season as a non-interim head coach, he made a significant change to the Hornets‘ starting lineup by slotting Jeremy Lamb alongside Kemba Walker in the backcourt. As Rick Bonnell writes for The Charlotte Observer, so far Lamb has made that decision look like a good one, as he has improved as a defender and provides more scoring and ball-handling in the starting lineup.

While Lamb’s traditional statistics are down from his breakout 2017/18 season, he is still a good fit in the starting lineup and a much-improved defender. As Bonnell points out, Borrego praises Nicolas Batum for helping Lamb on that end of the floor through consistent effort that has rubbed off on Lamb.

So far, the numbers tell the story, as the Hornets’ defense is nearly 5 points per 100 possessions better when Lamb is on the floor.

Borrego made the initial decision to start Lamb as a result of his desire for more scoring options in the starting lineup. The change led to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming off the bench as the team’s best wing defender, thereby putting more defensive responsibilities on Batum and Lamb. So far, the results have been promising as the Hornets look to return to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

There’s more from the Southeast division:

  • Much hasn’t changed for Hassan Whiteside and the Heat this season, as his spurts of strong statistical outputs are mixed in with inconsistent playing time. As Ira Winderman points out for The Sun Sentinel, Whiteside is near the top of the league in rebounds and blocks per game, yet will still receive the short end of the stick from game-to-game, which will be something to monitor moving forward.
  • With the Wizards off to a disappointing 1-7 start, Austin Rivers has been frustrated by his own play this season, notes Ben Standig for NBC Sports Washington. Rivers is down to just 6.5 points per game while shooting 37.3 percent from the field, a far cry from his production in recent seasons.

Dwight Howard Plans To Make Wizards Debut Friday

Dwight Howard, who signed with the Wizards in July, appears ready to make his debut for his new team, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to Charania, Howard plans to suit up for the Wizards when they host the Thunder this Friday.

Howard, who has been on the shelf so far this season due to an issue with his piriformis muscle, is capable of providing a major boost to a Wizards club that has struggled mightily on defense and on the glass so far this season, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington wrote earlier this week.

Washington has allowed 122.4 points per game and ranks in the NBA’s bottom three in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates. Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, is one of the league’s best rebounders, having averaged 12.5 RPG for Charlotte last season.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • With the Wizards off to a 1-6 start, there have been several theories about why the team has struggled so much to open the season, says ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. According to Windhorst, one theme brought up by a few Wizards players he spoke to was the number of 2019 free-agents-to-be on the roster. Some players may have to recommit to prioritizing the team over individual stats as they approach free agency.
  • History shows that the Wizards’ ugly start doesn’t mean they should throw in the towel on the 2018/19 season, writes Nick Ashooh of NBC Sports Washington. As Ashooh outlines, it was just two years ago that Washington started 2-8 and eventually finished with 49 wins.
  • Acquired in a June trade with the Clippers, Austin Rivers hasn’t made the impact that many predicted he would, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, who suggests that Rivers has “appeared lost” while adjusting to his new role and new team.

Wizards Notes: Slow Start, Trades, Rivers, Porter

Austin Rivers, one of the newest Wizards, had some pointed words for his teammates after the team dropped to 1-5 this season, E. Jay Zarett of the Sporting News relays. Washington is giving up a league-worst 125 PPG.  “Nobody’s going to feel bad for us,” the combo guard said. “People are laughing at us. … I don’t know how we expect to get wins when they are just walking into the paint, (we are) giving up threes. It comes from effort and talking. You have got to have personal pride. You’ve got to get mad when someone scores on you. We are not the Warriors.”

We’ve got more on the Wizards:

  • Breaking up the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal and finding a taker for Otto Porter Jr.’s big contract is the only way for Washington to begin a meaningful rebuild, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype opines. Wall and Beal remain the team’s best assets despite Wall’s extension kicking in next season and Beal having two more years left on his contract, Urbina continues.  If the front office doesn’t do something bold, it seems destined to deal with constant dysfunctional mediocrity, Urbina adds.
  • Rivers told father Doc Rivers that he was unsure whether he’d re-sign with the Clippers as a free agent in 2019 before he was dealt to Washington, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times reports. Austin Rivers wanted to establish that he could be an effective NBA player without playing for his father. Rivers, who is making $12.65MM this season, was swapped for center Marcin Gortat. “I felt like my head was hitting a ceiling because I was ultimately playing for my dad and no matter what I did it always came back to that. … I could score 60, 50, 40, whatever and people would be like, ‘Oh, his dad’s the coach,’” Rivers said.
  • Porter has not been carrying his share of the load offensively, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington notes. Porter is averaging just 9.8 PPG while shooting 41.1% from the field and 21.7% from 3-point range.
  • Coach Scott Brooks continues to have the full support of the organization despite the club’s poor start. Get all the details here.

Southeast Notes: Rivers, Clifford, Zeller, Mahinmi

Early in the summer the Wizards traded Marcin Gortat to the Clippers in exchange for Austin Rivers, a move that boosted the team’s backcourt depth and provides another option in small-ball lineups. The trade kicked off a busy offseason for Rivers, who has worked to adjust to life on the East Coast while adding a child to his family.

As Zach Rosen writes for the team’s website, Rivers will look to provide a consistent scoring punch off the bench and be a key cog in lineups alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris. That five-man unit will space the floor on offense and should be flexible on defense, which is a priority for Scott Brooks this season as he works to modernize the Wizards on both ends of the floor.

Rivers is coming off a career year in 2017/18, averaging 15.2 points and 4 assists per game while hitting 37.8% of his 3-pointers (he attempted nearly six per game). Rivers can both run the second-unit offense or be a secondary ball-handler when on the floor with the team’s All-Star guards, which will further diversify the Wizards’ attack. As Rosen points out, Brooks’ focus for the upcoming season is on 3-pointers, layups, dunks and defense, which should allow Rivers to fit right in.

As one of the team’s key additions, along with Dwight Howard and Jeff Green, Rivers will play an important role as the Wizards look to bounce back from a disappointing campaign in 2017/18.

There’s more from the Southeast division:

  • As he begins his first season as head coach of the Magic, Steve Clifford continues to tinker with possible lineup combinations. As John Denton writes for the team website, Clifford has specifically explored lineups that include both Mohamed Bamba and Nikola Vucevic on the floor. In such a lineup, the Magic would rely on Bamba to guard quicker power forwards due to his mobility. On offense, both bigs could play on the perimeter at times, given their shooting ability.
  • As the Hornets look to bounce back from another disappointing season, Cody Zeller will be a key piece to the puzzle. As Rick Bonnell points out for The Charlotte Observer, the Hornets have struggled mightily without Zeller, posting a 35-59 record in the games he has missed over the past four years. Zeller provides stellar two-way play and experience at the center position, which is exactly what the Hornets will need this season.
  • Finally able to go through a healthy offseason, Ian Mahinmi has looked much better in the Wizards‘ first two preseason games. As Chase Hughes writes for NBC Sports Washington, Mahinmi has started in place of Howard throughout the preseason and has had the sort of defensive impact the Wizards hoped for when they signed him during the 2016 offseason.

Southeast Notes: Rivers, Heat, Bamba

When the Wizards exiled big man Marcin Gortat, they did more than simply shed the 34-year-old’s contract, they filled a void that they’ve had for some time, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. The addition of backup combo guard Austin Rivers should alleviate some of the workload on Bradley Beal.

Beal logged the fourth most minutes in the NBA last season but ran out of gas for the Wizards late in the season. Rivers will also slot in behind John Wall at the point, providing capable support at both backcourt positions.

For the addition to work, Rivers will have to change his game slightly. For instance, he’ll have to tone down the volume shooting as part of a larger, competitive Wizards team.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat will bring back their “captain”, 38-year-old Udonis Haslem, for the 2018/19 season. Now, an Associated Press report states, he’ll get to work convincing Dwyane Wade to join him in fending off retirement. “My mindset has always been for us to finish it together,” Haslem said. “I want us to do a whole season together. Experience the road, dinner on the road, go through that whole process. I want us to experience that together.” Wade, of course, played half of last season with the Cavaliers after initially leaving Miami for the Bulls in the summer of 2016.
  • The Magic are expected to open the season with Nikola Vucevic as their starting center, team scribe John Denton writes, but the club will make sure that Mohamed Bamba has plenty of time to demonstrate his potential. According to Denton, the rookie has already “greatly impressed” the squad with the improvement he’s made since the end of the NCAA season.
  • The Heat have a number of options that Erik Spoelstra will need to mix and match in order to fill his frontcourt. Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes in a mailbag with readers that he views Kelly Olynyk as a change-of-pace backup center behind Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson as the club’s power forward.

Southeast Notes: Borrego, Swarm, Howard, Rivers

New coach James Borrego will emphasize ball movement in an effort to improve a Hornets team that ranked 24th in assists last season, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. The former Spurs assistant wants players to make quick decisions with the ball and not let the offense slow down, which led to the trade of Dwight Howard this summer.

“When the ball is just being pounded and one guy has it in his hands for five or six seconds – when we’re just seeing him dance with the ball – the rest of the defense just gets to relax and load up,” Borrego said. “You’re not going to be perfect all the time, but let’s put pressure on the defense constantly. … We demanded it in San Antonio. My job is to sell that to the players to do what’s best for the team.”

Faced with a roster that was hard to revamp because of so many large contracts, new GM Mitch Kupchak hired Borrego to bring a fresh approach to the team, which will include playing at a faster pace. Former Spurs point guard Tony Parker was signed to help implement Borrego’s philosophy on the court, and Nicolas Batum will have a larger role in running the offense while moving from the backcourt to small forward.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets‘ G League affiliate in Greensboro has hired Joe Wolf as its new coach, the team announced on its website. A former assistant with the Nets and Bucks, Wolf comes to the Swarm after serving as an assistant at UNC Wilmington.
  • A pair of Wizards top the list of the list of the most underrated offseason acquisitions compiled by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Howard occupies the No. 1 spot, signing a two-year deal in Washington after being traded by the Hornets and bought out by the Nets. He provides a huge defensive upgrade from Marcin Gortat, O’Connor notes, and could develop into an effective pick-and-roll partner with John Wall. Austin Rivers, who was acquired from the Clippers in the Gortat deal, ranks second on the list and should provide backcourt depth the Wizards have needed behind Wall and Bradley Beal.
  • Wizards rookie Troy Brown has signed a multi-year shoe deal with Nike, tweets Nick DePaula of ESPN.

Wizards Notes: Rivers, Howard, Green, Bryant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s more news from Los Angeles:

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

Clippers, Wizards Swap Austin Rivers, Marcin Gortat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Clippers’ Austin Rivers Exercises 2018/19 Option

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

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

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

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