Austin Rivers

Knicks Notes: Toppin, Randolph, Rivers, Quickley

The Knicks are excited about lottery pick Obi Toppin, but there are concerns about his fit alongside Julius Randle, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Both are natural power forwards, and many scouts tell Berman that Toppin doesn’t have the versatility to play small forward in the NBA.

“I think best case, they don’t play together that often and you share the 48 power-forward minutes,’’ former NBA scout Bryan Oringher said. “You can get away with each of them as a small-ball 5 for a few minutes a game, but I really don’t think either can play the 3. As centers, they are obviously undersized, and your rim protection will be pretty porous.’’

Randle is headed into the final fully guaranteed year of the contract he signed last summer. He would eat up $4MM in cap space if the Knicks cut him loose before the 2021/22 season, so there’s incentive to trade him before then and let Toppin become the starter at power forward.

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks’ point guard situation may be even more muddled than it was last season, contends Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr., who shared the job a year ago, are all still with the team, as well as free agent addition Austin Rivers and first-round pick Immanuel Quickley. New York missed out on free agent targets Fred VanVleet and D.J. Augustin.
  • Rivers’ new deal will pay him $3.5MM this season, $3.3MM is 2021/22 and $3.15MM in 2022/23, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The second and third years won’t become guaranteed until seven days after the final day of the moratorium for each season.
  • In a lengthy interview, Quickley talks to Steve Serby of The New York Post about his experiences at Kentucky and his hopes for the NBA. “My whole life I wasn’t ranked,” Quickley said. “I had just gotten ranked like my junior and senior year. And then I come into Kentucky, people don’t believe that I’m gonna be good enough to be able to … I’m not the quote unquote usual Kentucky player like John Wall or De’Aaron Fox or something like that. But I still came in and had success. And then I think it’s a lot of people that still doubt me coming into the league, don’t think I can play point guard, don’t think I’m strong enough or things like that, so just always trying to prove the doubters wrong and prove myself right.”

Knicks Add Austin Rivers Via Sign-And-Trade

The Knicks have officially completed their addition of Austin Rivers in a sign-and-trade deal with the Rockets rather than signing him outright, announcing the move today in a press release.

The move also sends the draft rights of three players – guard Sergio Llull, forward Tadija Dragicevic, and forward Axel Hervelle – to New York. In exchange, the Rockets receive the draft rights to guard Issuf Sanon and create a modest trade exception.

Rivers had agreed over the weekend to sign a three-year, $10MM deal with the Knicks. The final two years of his new contract are non-guaranteed, which is permitted under sign-and-trade rules.

The inclusion of Llull in this deal is the most interesting new piece of information. The Rockets have long attempted to get the Spanish guard, who was selected 34th overall in the 2009 draft, to come stateside and play in the NBA, but he has preferred to remain in his home country with Real Madrid — he has played for the EuroLeague club since 2007.

At age 33, Llull seems increasingly unlikely to ever make the move to the NBA. That’s even more true of Dragicevic and Hervelle, who were drafted in 2008 and 2005, respectively, and are in their mid-30s now. However, their rights could be useful as filler in future trades.

Sanon, who has played for Slovenian and Ukrainian teams since being drafted in 2018, is still a candidate to eventually sign an NBA contract. He was the 44th overall pick two years ago and is still just 21 years old.

Of course, the only player of immediate importance in the deal is Rivers, who will add some veteran experience to the Knicks’ backcourt in 2020/21. He averaged 8.8 PPG and 2.6 RPG on .421/.356/.703 shooting in 68 games (23.4 MPG) for the Rockets last season.

New York will technically be hard-capped as a result of acquiring a player via sign-and-trade. The team remains far below the cap for the time being though, so it’s fair to assume that $138.93MM hard cap won’t become an issue in 2020/21.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Knicks, Austin Rivers Agree To Three-Year Deal

7:15pm: The second and third years of Rivers’ new deal will be non-guaranteed, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link).


6:23pm: Following up on his initial report, Wojnarowski says (via Twitter) that Rivers will actually get a three-year deal from the Knicks. It’ll be worth $10MM, Woj adds.


5:08pm: The Knicks have agreed to add free agent combo guard Austin Rivers to their rotation on a one-year deal, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (via Twitter) observes that this brings New York to 15 total roster spots, including another new addition, center Ed Davis.

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has long been a fan of Rivers, according to Frank Isola of ESPN (Twitter link). Selected by the Pelicans with the 10th pick out of Duke in 2012, the 6’3″ Rivers has developed into a solid reserve scoring guard.

He also had stops with the Clippers and Wizards, before turning in memorable performances on competitive Rockets teams during parts of the last two seasons. In 68 games for the Rockets last season, Rivers added 8.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, and 1.7 APG. He had a respectable shooting line of .421/.356/.703.

According to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News (Twitter link), Rivers is one of eight players with ties to either CAA or the University of Kentucky added by new Knicks GM Leon Rose via draft, trade or free agency.

Austin Rivers Declines Player Option For 2020/21

NOVEMBER 19: As expected, Rivers is opting out of his contract and will reach the free agent market on Friday, reports Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link).


NOVEMBER 12: Rockets guard Austin Rivers will opt out of his veteran’s minimum $2.4MM player option for the 2020/21 season and enter the 2020 free agent market, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets. According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link), Rivers fielded offers close to the $5.7MM mid-level exception last summer, but opted to re-sign with the club at a discount last summer in the hopes of competing for a title.

Rivers apparently will try not to let the fates of his All-Star teammates James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who reportedly expressed frustration with the team’s direction, impact his own decision making in free agency.

“They have their own decisions to make,” he said. “I’m a guy that wants to go places and play and help teams win. That’s all I’m about, is just competing and helping teams.”

Rivers had praise for new team head coach Stephen Silas, Berman noted in another tweet. “The most important thing, he’s a guy who knows the game of basketball and he’s been around it his whole life,” Rivers said.

Rivers, 28, averaged 8.8 PPG on .421/.356/.703 shooting in 68 games (23.4 MPG) for the Rockets in 2019/20.

In his comments today and earlier this week – when he strongly hinted he’d be opting out of the final year of his contract – Rivers stressed that he hasn’t ruled out a possible return to Houston and simply wants to consider all his options.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Rumors: Westbrook, Gordon, House, Rivers, Tucker, More

Within their full report on Russell Westbrook‘s desire to leave Houston, Kelly Iko, Sam Amick, and Shams Charania of The Athletic write that the former MVP had made it known “for quite some time” that he wanted to see major changes to the Rockets‘ culture. Specifically, Westbrook was seeking more “team-wide accountability, discipline and structure,” and hoped to establish a culture similar to the one he’d helped create in Oklahoma City.

Westbrook wasn’t the only Rockets player who experienced some frustrations during the 2019/20 season. According to The Athletic’s report, Eric Gordon hasn’t been pleased with how his responsibilities and importance have diminished in recent years and has wanted a more consistent role. The Rockets reportedly discussed playing Gordon less often with Westbrook and James Harden to optimize his skill set, but Mike D’Antoni resisted changes to his staggering strategy.

Danuel House also wasn’t thrilled with his role in Houston’s offense and how he was used, according to Iko, Amick, and Charania, who say that the young forward “verbally challenged” Westbrook, Harden, and D’Antoni. Additionally, Austin Rivers were unhappy with inconsistent playing time and his usage, per The Athletic. Following one game when D’Antoni was about to sub in Rivers before changing his mind and inserting DeMarre Carroll instead, Rivers went on an “expletive-laden tirade.”

Many of those frustrations can be traced back to a lack of accountability, sources tell The Athletic. According to Iko, Amick, and Charania, during one team meeting following a January loss, Westbrook went around the room and gave suggestions about what each player could do to help reverse the team’s slide — Harden wasn’t as receptive to to criticism as other Rockets players, per The Athletic’s sources.

Concerns about the Rockets’ culture date back past the 2019/20 season, as there’s a belief the team has catered too much to its stars. When Trevor Ariza left the club in 2018, he wanted to join an organization that would give him more respect, according to The Athletic. When Houston later expressed interest in bringing back Ariza, he sought an apology that he never received, sources tell Iko, Amick, and Charania. There have also been some complaints over the years from Rockets players about the team’s style of play and its unwillingness to make adjustments.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • P.J. Tucker has been “irate” all season long about his contract situation, believing he’s extremely underpaid relative to his role and production, according to Iko, Amick, and Charania. Tucker feels as though he deserves a raise and has been upset by the Rockets’ unwillingness to sign him to an extension, per The Athletic.
  • D’Antoni’s and Daryl Morey‘s departures after the 2019/20 season have played a large part in creating doubt in Harden’s and Westbrook’s minds about the Rockets’ ability to sustain long-term success, according to Iko, Amick, and Charania. While both stars have had input on decisions and support the hiring of new head coach Stephen Silas, they’re concerned about the possibility of an eventual rebuild, which they’d have no interest in.
  • Retaining veteran assistant John Lucas in a key role on Silas’ staff was meant to send a “clear message” to Westbrook and Harden that Houston remains committed to contending, according to The Athletic’s report.
  • Appearing on The Ringer’s Real Ones podcast earlier this week, Austin Rivers strongly suggested that he intends to turn down his 2020/21 player option, which is worth the veteran’s minimum. “That’s something I’m going through right now with my agent,” Rivers said. “I definitely want to probably be out there on the market and just see what else is out there. But I love Houston; Houston’s still one of my main options. That’s a team I loved playing for. But there’s other teams out there that you want to look at. You owe it to yourself to at least see the best situation for yourself.”
  • In Thursday’s episode of Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said Serge Ibaka will be high on the Rockets’ list of free agent targets this offseason, though he may be out of the club’s price range.

And-Ones: Option Decisions, Avdija, Draft, Onuaku

With the NBA season over and 2020’s free agent period approaching (eventually), John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a look at all 43 team and player option decisions that must be made this fall, evaluating which options are likely to be exercised and which will be turned down.

While Anthony Davis and Jerami Grant are viewed as the only locks to decline their respective player options this offseason, Hollinger identifies seven more players who he thinks will opt for free agency: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Wesley Matthews, Austin Rivers, Willie Cauley-Stein, and James Ennis.

With the exception of Caldwell-Pope, McGee, and Cauley-Stein – who is technically earning slightly above the minimum – those players are all on minimum-salary deals, so it won’t be a surprise if they explore the open market, even if they have to settle for another minimum contract. However, KCP’s case should be interesting — his $8.49MM option for 2020/21 is close to mid-level territory, but he could still probably do better after an impressive showing in the NBA Finals.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Bobby Marks take a look at next steps for the NBA, including what next season’s schedule might look like and when roster moves might resume. While there’s currently a freeze on transactions, team executives confirmed to ESPN that the moratorium will be lifted and trades will be permitted before the draft on November 18.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and Jeremy Woo of SI.com have each published updated versions of their mock drafts for 2020. Both draft experts have Anthony Edwards going No. 1, but O’Connor has a surprise pick at No. 2, penciling in Deni Avdija. League executives expect Avdija to “enter the mainstream conversation as a top-three pick” in the coming weeks, according to O’Connor.
  • Former NBA big man Chinanu Onuaku has reached an agreement to sign with Croatian team KK Zadar, a source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Onuaku was the 37th overall pick in the 2016 draft, but didn’t see much action in two seasons with Houston, appearing in just six total games before being traded and waived.

Southwest Notes: Mbah A Moute, Rivers, Porzingis, Spurs

Speaking today to reporters for the first time since reporting to the NBA’s campus and clearing quarantine, Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute confirmed that his arrival was delayed because he had contracted the coronavirus, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Mbah a Moute signed with the Rockets on July 7 as a substitute player replacing Thabo Sefolosha, but didn’t arrive in Orlando until last Wednesday. According to Feigen, Mbah a Moute said today that he dealt with “chills (and) body ache” while battling COVID-19, adding that the recovery was “tough.”

Meanwhile, Mbah a Moute’s teammate Austin Rivers hasn’t tested positive for the coronavirus, but remains quarantined in his hotel room after briefly leaving the Orlando campus last week. Rivers, who returned on Saturday, is scheduled to complete his four-day quarantine period on Tuesday and should be ready to go for the Rockets’ first seeding game this Friday vs. Dallas, Feigen writes for The Chronicle.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis was held out of Sunday’s scrimmage because he missed a mandatory coronavirus test on Saturday, though head coach Rick Carlisle wasn’t overly upset by the mistake, per Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. “This situation was one where he just took his eye off the ball a little bit in terms of the day-to-day protocols and procedures,” Carlisle said. “It can be challenging on off days to keep track of the schedule. I almost missed testing on our first off day. … It’s an innocent mistake, but it’s significant.”
  • Trey Burke just signed with the Mavericks on July 1 and was late arriving to the NBA’s campus in Orlando, but he believes his experience playing for Carlisle in 2018/19 will help him quickly adjust, Sefko writes at Mavs.com. “I feel comfortable, rather than other places coming into a new place and it’s a brand new system and a brand new coaching staff,” Burke said. “I pretty much know the pace that coach likes to play with, I know how hard he can be on guys and I’m ready for that.”
  • With LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles sidelined for the summer, the Spurs are experimenting with some guard-heavy lineups, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. One unit, which features recent first-rounders Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker playing alongside each other, could be a preview of the club’s future backcourt, McDonald notes.

Rockets’ Austin Rivers Returns To Campus

Rockets guard Austin Rivers is back on the Walt Disney World campus, two days after leaving for an “urgent family matter,” writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Rivers posted the news today on his Instagram account.

Players are permitted to leave the campus, but they must quarantine for four to 10 days once they return. Feigen notes that the four-day wait takes effect only if players test negative for the coronavirus for seven straight days before returning. Those tests can include the ones taken at the WDW complex if they’re away for fewer than seven days.

Rivers wasn’t present for last night’s scrimmage and will sit out Sunday’s contest with the Grizzlies, Feigen adds. His status for the final scrimmage on Tuesday and Houston’s first seeding game on Friday has yet to be determined.

Rivers was a valuable contributor off the bench in his first full season with the Rockets, averaging 8.5 points in 60 games while playing 23.4 minutes per night. He has a $2.4MM player option for 2020/21.

Rockets’ Rivers Leaves Campus Due To Urgent Family Matter

9:51am: Rivers expects to return to Orlando sometime this weekend, tweets Charania. Assuming he only requires a four-day quarantine period, Rivers should have a chance to be active for Houston’s first seeding game next Friday.


9:28am: Rockets guard Austin Rivers has left the NBA’s campus at Walt Disney World in order to attend to an “urgent family matter,” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter).

Based on the NBA’s protocols, Rivers will be subject to a quarantine period of at least four days when he returns to Orlando. He’ll have to remain quarantined for up to 10-14 days if he doesn’t return daily negative coronavirus tests for each day that he’s off campus (or each of the last seven days, if he’s away for more than a week).

Unless Rivers’ absence is brief, it seems unlikely he’ll be available for Houston’s first seeding game on July 31 vs. Dallas. However, he still has plenty of time to return and get back up to game speed before the playoffs begin (around August 17). The Rockets are hopeful he’ll be able to return soon, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Rivers is the fourth player known to have left the campus for a personal emergency. Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, Clippers center Montrezl Harrell, and Clippers guard Patrick Beverley have also done so.

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.