Austin Rivers

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Ainge, A. Rivers, Raptors

After falling two games below .500 last Wednesday, the Celtics have turned things around in the last week. Boston won its third straight game on Tuesday night, as an impressive victory over the Clippers put the team back over .500 and into the No. 4 seed in the East.

Still, an 18-17 record represents an underwhelming first half for a team that was widely viewed as one of the top threats to come out of the East entering the season. In his attempt to determine what’s gone wrong with the Celtics, Tim Bontemps of ESPN spoke to executives who pointed to Kemba Walker‘s slow start as one factor the club has struggled to overcome.

“He can still provide value,” one Western Conference executive said of the Celtics’ point guard. “But is he worth $35 million? Is he worth that number? That’s tough (to build around) if he isn’t.”

The general consensus among Bontemps’ sources is that the Celtics will need to make some sort of trade before the deadline if they want to have a legit chance to make a deep playoff run this spring. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge has been reluctant to make in-season trades in the past, with one Western executive suggesting the C’s will only make a move “if they think they’re going to bury you.” However, given how well Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have played, the time looks right for Boston to try to upgrade its roster and get its rising young stars some help.

“There comes a time where you have to do something to keep your stars placated and show that you’re trying, especially when they’re young and early in their primes,” one East executive told Bontemps. “You have to make that commitment to them.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • With Ainge facing some criticism for the Celtics‘ up-and-down season and the team’s lack of depth, Zach Kram of The Ringer takes a closer look at the veteran executive’s résumé to determine whether or not the bad moves have outweighed the good ones over the last decade.
  • Even without Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton available on Tuesday, veteran guard Austin Rivers couldn’t crack the Knicks‘ rotation, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. After not being on New York’s bench at all on Saturday, Rivers has been there for the team’s last two contests, but he hasn’t actually gotten onto the court since he played a couple garbage-time minutes on February 13. He’s a candidate to be moved at the trade deadline.
  • While the Raptors‘ greatest need may be at center, the team could very well explore the market for wings and/or forwards this month as well. With that in mind, Blake Murphy of The Athletic considers some possible targets for Toronto, including Thaddeus Young, P.J. Tucker, and James Ennis.

Austin Rivers Not On Knicks’ Bench For Saturday’s Game

The end of Austin Rivers‘ stay with the Knicks could be close after he wasn’t on the bench for Saturday’s game, suggests Marc Berman of The New York Post.

A team official told Berman that Rivers was at Madison Square Garden, but was getting treatment for a sore ankle. He wasn’t listed on the pre-game injury report and there was no mention of an injury in the box score, where he was designated as DNP-Coach’s Decision.

Rivers was removed from the rotation after the Knicks traded for Derrick Rose three weeks ago. Elfrid Payton has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, but coach Tom Thibodeau gave the extra minutes to little-used Frank Ntilikina instead of Rivers.

Rivers, 28, signed a three-year contract with New York in November, but only the first season of the deal is guaranteed. Through 21 games, he is averaging 7.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 21.0 minutes per night. He has played five total minutes in the last nine games and was the only player not used in Thursday’s blowout of the Kings.

A sprained ankle suffered by veteran big man Taj Gibson Saturday night could hasten Rivers’ departure, Berman adds. The Knicks, who are already without starting center Mitchell Robinson, have a full roster and would have to waive someone to add another frontcourt player. Thibodeau said after the game that team president Leon Rose “will look into players that are available.’’

Knicks Notes: Rivers, Drummond, Schedule, Porzingis

Veteran guard Austin Rivers was excited to join the Knicks as a free agent back in November, but his first year in New York hasn’t played out as he envisioned so far. After getting a late start to the season due to a groin injury, Rivers has now fallen out of the rotation entirely following the acquisition of Derrick Rose.

Rivers, who said he heard rumors even before the season that the Knicks could eventually trade for Rose, referred to his situation as “tough.” But with the team outperforming preseason expectations, he’s focused on staying positive — even if his own future remains unclear as the trade deadline approaches.

“As long as I’m here, I’m here,” Rivers said, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. “I can’t control if I’m traded today, tomorrow or the next day. What I can control is how I am as a player and what I can bring to this team every day. That’s being ready at all times no matter if my name is called or not and to help the young, young guys be ready to play. I’ll just continue to be ready to play here as long as I’m here, for however long.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks are “analyzing” whether to attempt to trade for Cavaliers center Andre Drummond, a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. Drummond’s $28.75MM salary diminishes his value as a trade chip, but the Knicks still have approximately $15MM in cap room and wouldn’t have to match the big man’s full salary. Berman adds that the Cavs’ asking price is believed to be modest, which makes sense, since the club only gave up a second-round pick and expiring contracts for him a year ago.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic explores how the Knicks’ second-half schedule will affect their chase for a playoff spot, noting that weathering the six games at the start of the second half will be crucial, since they could help determine the team’s approach to the trade deadline. That six-game stretch includes games against Brooklyn, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia (twice).
  • In a separate story of The Athletic, Vorkunov and Tim Cato revisit the Kristaps Porzingis trade, which the Knicks and Mavericks made in January 2019. According to Cato, Dallas still feels strongly that it won the deal, especially given the way Tim Hardaway Jr. has played over the last two years. However, Vorkunov suggests it hasn’t been a total disaster for New York, given Porzingis’ ongoing injury issues and his up-and-down play, plus the fact that the Knicks could still make good use of the two first-round picks they’re owed.

Knicks Notes: Rose, Rivers, Knox, Ntilikina, Beal, Oladipo

After making his Knicks debut on Tuesday, veteran guard Derrick Rose spoke about the “synergy” he shares with head coach Tom Thibodeau and admitted that reuniting with Thibodeau – and Knicks executive William Wesley – was his top choice when he decided he wanted to move on from the Pistons, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“Even though I couldn’t say that at the time, I just wanted to be comfortable,” Rose said. “Like I said, I’ve been knowing these guys ever since high school, eighth grade, high school, so coming here, like I said, it’s family. I never really thought about anything else but really getting here and understanding they wanted me to help grow the young guys they’ve already got here.”

One of those “young guys” Rose will get a chance to mentor is rookie guard Immanuel Quickley. In Rose’s debut, the two guards shared the court as part of New York’s second unit, which is a pairing Thibodeau expects will continue going forward. As Bontemps details, the Knicks’ head coach said after the game that Austin Rivers, who was replaced in the rotation by Rose, figures to be a “situational” player for the time being.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, and all of the Knicks’ first-round picks were off limits in the trade for Rose, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who says the Knicks want to save as many assets as possible for a possible bigger splash down the road.
  • The Knicks are among the teams keeping an eye on Bradley Beal and Victor Oladipo, Berman adds in the same story. There’s no indication that Beal will be moved by the Wizards anytime soon, but sources tell The New York Post that the Rockets are considered “amenable” to flipping Oladipo after acquiring him in January. A report last week indicated the Knicks still have interest in Oladipo after eyeing him in the offseason.
  • The Knicks announced plans today to allow approximately 2,000 fans at their home games beginning on February 23 (Twitter link). The announcement came on the heels of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo permitting large sports venues to reopen at 10% capacity, which will pave the way for the Nets to begin allowing fans at Barclays Center later this month as well, as Malika Andrews of ESPN writes.

Atlantic Notes: Johnson, Reed, Rivers, Green

Former lottery pick Stanley Johnson has reinvented himself as a versatile rotation swingman for the Raptors, writes Blake Murphy of The Athletic. The 24-year-old Johnson is averaging 16.1 MPG for Toronto this season.

Playing in a more limited role than his first team, the Pistons, may have expected when they selected him with the No. 8 pick out of Arizona in 2015, Johnson has been able to hone in on the defensive end and build up his play-making. He is also connecting on a career-high 42.5% of his 1.3 three-point attempts a night.

Murphy notes that Johnson’s willingness to adjust to a role-player position with the Raptors could significantly extend his NBA career. The former lottery pick will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Two-way Sixers power forward Paul Reed will join the club’s G League affiliate – the Delaware Blue Coats – as it departs for the NBAGL’s Orlando “bubble” campus ahead of the 2021 season, tweets Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • New Knicks off-guard Austin Rivers notes that New York has been dealing with an exhausting schedule, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post“Oh, we’re definitely tired,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t know how a schedule could be tougher than what we’ve played. Physically and mentally. At the same time, it is what it is. Here we are.”
  • Multi-faceted Nets forward Jeff Green has helped Brooklyn’s suddenly thinned-out frontcourt following the trade that brought in All-Star James Harden, according to Greg Joyce of The New York Post“It helps when you get Kevin [Durant] and Kyrie [Irving] and James on your team,” Green said. “A lot of attention is going to be on those guys, so I want to do my part in being ready to shoot. It just comes with repetition, the work that I’m putting in to make sure I’m prepared for those times where they are swinging the ball my way and I’m able to shoot.” Green is averaging 12.1 PPG and 4.7 rebounds in 32.9 MPG since the deal.

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Durant, Irving, Fall, Knicks

Knicks guard Austin Rivers shined light on the importance of having available players this season, particularly as the league continues to navigate through a pandemic.

New York has mostly received good luck with COVID-19, while several teams (including the Heat and Celtics, who saw their game be postponed on Sunday) are unable to say the same. It’s a major reason why the team has a 5-4 record through the first nine contests of the season.

“The number one skill is availability,” Rivers said, as relayed by Steve Popper of Newsday. “If we can remain doing the things that we’re supposed to do — a lot of it has to do with just bad luck and good luck in terms of getting it. Some guys aren’t taking all the precautions. It’s a crazy thing. Some people touch something and end up getting it.

“With that being aside, if we do our job and we remain available, it gives us a chance to win every night and it gives us an advantage because you see a lot of teams having star players [out]. Just saw Tatum today with Boston go down. You get to see some of these teams missing some of their guys and if we’re fully loaded, it just gives us another advantage. So we’ve got to try to do our part.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Nets superstar Kevin Durant (health and safety protocols) will be available to play today against the Thunder, the team announced on social media. Star guard Kyrie Irving will miss another game due to personal reasons. A Nets win would give them a 6-5 record, while Oklahoma City is seeking its third straight victory.
  • Celtics center Tacko Fall has shown the team he’s ready for an increased role, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. Fall, 25, finished with four points, eight rebounds and three blocks off the bench in the team’s victory against Washington on Friday, logging 19 minutes. “Tacko’s gotten better since the first day that he got here,” teammate Jaylen Brown said. “He’s gotten better. His body has improved. His timing has improved. And he’s ready, as you’ve seen today. He came out, had a great game for us, defended, protected the rim, did everything we asked for, and that was just his first game. I think it’s only going to get better the more opportunity he gets.”
  • The Knicks have hired Nick Restifo to manage coaching analytics, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link). Restifo worked with head coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota as a basketball operations assistant, Vorkunov notes.

Knicks Notes: Rivers, Thibodeau, Quickley, Randle

Austin Rivers was aware of the Knicks‘ recent history when he decided to join them as a free agent, but he believed the organization was moving in the right direction, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Rivers, who is seeing regular minutes for the first time since suffering a groin strain in training camp, came off the bench to score 15 points and hit a clutch shot in Saturday’s win at Indiana.

At 28, Rivers is one of New York’s oldest players and has become a spokesman for the team. He recently wrote an online letter to fans asking for patience with the young roster and the new management group.

“They brought in all these great people, from top to bottom,” Rivers said. “From (team president Leon Rose) to (coach Tom Thibodeau) to players to trainers. Everything. Strength coach. The whole nine yards. So I just wanted to let people know to be patient. We’re working so hard. (Saturday’s) a big win but we know we have more work to do. Every time I get in the locker room, I tell guys, we got to keep building, we got to keep building. So we’re headed in the right direction.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Thibodeau is getting contributions from his entire nine-man rotation and has instilled some stability in the team, using the same starting lineup in all six games, observes Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Knicks may get a boost soon from the return of Alec Burks, who has missed the past three games with a sprained ankle.
  • The Knicks welcomed back rookie guard Immanuel Quickley, who played Saturday for the first time since suffering a hip pointer in the season opener, notes Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Quickley had a strong preseason, displaying an ability to drive to the rim and get to the line. “A little rust, obviously, but overall, very pleased,” Thibodeau said of Quickley’s return. “Good energy. You can see he’s clever in terms of drawing fouls, which is very important.”
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic offers Knicks predictions for 2021, including a trade of Julius Randle. The veteran power forward only has a $4MM guarantee on his $19.8MM contract for 2021/22, and Vorkunov expects him to be dealt to a team willing to give him an extension. The Knicks have Obi Toppin to take Randle’s place and can use the cap room in other areas. Vorkunov also believes this will be the last season in New York for Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr. and Omari Spellman.

New York Notes: Allen, Jordan, Quickley, DSJ

Jarrett Allen is one of the NBA’s top rebounders and he could force Nets coach Steve Nash to consider a change in his starting lineup, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Allen is only playing 22.6 minutes per night off the bench, but he’s leading the league in offensive rebounds, offensive rebound percentage, and total rebound percentage.

Nash has been using DeAndre Jordan as his starting center, but the 32-year-old hasn’t been impressive. Lewis notes that Jordan’s plus-minus rating has declined in each game this season, hitting minus-8 on Wednesday as he managed just five points and one rebound against the Hawks.

“That’s a good debate. It’s a small sample, one, and I’m not sure if plus-minus is the best barometer,” Nash said. “But that was a tough matchup for DJ. Those guys are good, dynamic rollers, (Clint) Capela, but even more so (John) Collins’ speed is exceptional getting out of the screen and it poses a unique problem.”

There’s more from New York City:

  • The Nets are still adjusting to life without Spencer Dinwiddie, who may be lost for the season with a partially torn ACL, Lewis adds in a separate storyTimothe Luwawu-Cabarrot replaced Dinwiddie in the starting lineup Wednesday, but that new unit had never practiced together. They wound up with a minus-10 in 13 minutes. “It’s a big loss because of (Dinwiddie’s) versatility, skill set, size, speed, defensive ability. We’ll miss him dearly,” Nash said. “We’re going to see a lot of different lineups, different combinations.”
  • The Knicks should be getting a couple of injured guards back soon, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tvImmanuel Quickley, who’s been dealing with a sore left hip, could return Saturday or Monday. Dennis Smith Jr., who has a left quad issue, will rejoin the team during its road trip but will have to work on conditioning before being cleared to practice.
  • Austin Rivers, who played his first game with the Knicks Thursday night, posted an Instagram message afterward asking fans to be patient, Begley tweets. “Trust us. We’re getting better,” Rivers wrote. “We have a new great coach, all new players, really young, learning to play with each other and get chemistry right still, and we still getting all the way healthy. It’s a process but I promise we getting there step by step.”

New York Notes: Randle, Rivers, Luwawu-Cabarrot, Crawford

Julius Randle became the symbol of free agency disappointment for Knicks fans last season, but he has shown signs of a turnaround this year, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Randle was among several veteran free agents brought in on short-term deals after New York missed out on its primary targets during the summer of 2019. Bondy notes that Randle has lost weight and looks like a different player so far.

“I ran pretty much every day during the offseason. Like I said, that was just a challenge for me to get in extreme condition or whatever it is,” Randle said. “That’s just what I challenged myself to do every day. Yeah, I dropped a little bit of weight but the biggest thing was just pushing myself just to run every day and just challenging myself in that way.”

New coach Tom Thibodeau said he noticed the difference in Randle when he reported for the team’s voluntary training camp in September. Thibodeau has given Randle control of the offense, and he’s averaging 24.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists through the first four games.

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks are encouraged by the progress of free agent addition Austin Rivers, who has been sidelined by a groin injury but went through he first contact drills Monday, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. “There’s a progression to coming back,’’ Thibodeau explained. “He was doing condition without contact. Then it goes to one-on-one controlled movements. Then progressed to two-on-two. And then three-on-three. We’re on the three-on-three phase right now. It’s day-to-day on how he feels and whether we get to the next step. There’s more steps to take. He has to play five-on-five and practice with the team. He’s still a couple of steps away.’’
  • Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is making a bid for more playing time following the season-ending injury to Spencer Dinwiddie, writes Mollie Walker of The New York Post. Luwawu-Cabarrot was used as a starter Monday and responded with 21 points, six rebounds and two steals in 40 minutes. “TLC has just been really steady,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said. “Very trustworthy defensively. Knows the system. Is very attentive to his responsibilities, and he’s been shooting the ball. He’s played within himself. He’s doing very well.”
  • The Nets have remained in contact with veteran guard Jamal Crawford and may consider him as a replacement for Dinwiddie, states Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Crawford signed with the Nets for last season’s restart, but appeared in just one game before getting injured.

Knicks Notes: Burks, Rivers, Dolan, Barrett

Alec Burks could join the Knicks‘ starting lineup soon after an impressive performance Wednesday in his first game with the team, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Signed during the offseason, Burks poured in 22 points in 32 minutes. Reggie Bullock got the start at shooting guard because Burks missed the last two preseason games for the birth of a child, but coach Tom Thibodeau is thinking about converting Burks to a starter.

“It’s a possibility,’’ Thibodeau said. “I like the scoring punch he gives us off the bench. He’s sort of great to have because of the versatility. The ability to be a secondary ball-handler, at times playing the point. Scoring the ball, guarding down a position. He’s got a lot of toughness to him. He’ll have significant role, whether it’s starting or coming off the bench.’’

The idea of using Burks at point guard is a sign that Thibodeau hasn’t developed confidence in Frank Ntilikina or Dennis Smith Jr., Berman notes. Burks teamed with RJ Barrett in the backcourt for a while in the opener after rookie Immanuel Quickley suffered a hip pointer.

“I’m trying to get more chemistry,’’ Burks said. “We don’t have so much practice time. I’m trying to learn everybody, and that was the main thing I was happy about it. Learning everybody’s tendencies and where they like to be on the court.’’

There’s more from New York City:

  • There’s still no timetable for Austin Rivers‘ first game with the Knicks, but the free agent addition is making some progress in his return from a groin injury, according to Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Rivers participated in a light practice Thursday, and the team plans to be careful after he missed almost the entire training camp.
  • Kevin Durant‘s early-season performance makes the Knicks’ decision not to offer him a maximum contract look like the latest mistake from owner James Dolan, contends Adam Zagoria of Forbes. New York had enough cap room for two max deals in July of 2019, but Dolan was hesitant to offer full max money because Durant had just ruptured his Achilles tendon.
  • Fans won’t be permitted to start the season at Madison Square Garden, which Barrett believes might help the home team, Berman adds in a separate story. “Actually having no fans might be an advantage,’’ Barrett said. “I know if I was a competitor, coming into the Garden, with all those fans, I’d want to have a great game. So coming in there with no fans actually probably gives us an advantage that way too.”