Austin Rivers says he fits well with Rockets style, personalities, including with Chris Paul
Austin Rivers had not worked up a sweat with the Rockets when he voluntarily cited his eventful past against them.
He had been asked about scoring more against the Rockets last season with the Clippers than he did against any other opponent when he brought up the night Rockets players infiltrated the Staples Center home locker room looking for him.
“For better or worse, right?” Rivers said of his history against the Rockets. “If we ever play in L.A., me and CP (Chris Paul) know all the tunnels. We’ll be all right there. It’s funny. This is a team I always admired and wanted to play for with (Mike) D’Antoni and the way they play, getting up and down. It’s a very fitting place.”
After a heated game last season, Rockets players had gone into the home locker room looking for Rivers and former Rockets guard Pat Beverley, earning former Rockets forward Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green suspensions. That inspired waves of jokes and memes about Paul knowing the “secret” tunnels between locker rooms, but also brought an assumption Paul and Rivers had issues with one another in their five seasons as Clippers teammates.
Rivers shot that down quickly, citing among other things the fact he was a free agent who Sunday chose to sign a one-year deal to play with Paul. Rivers pointed out Paul and he worked out together last summer.
“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.
“I know Chris Paul well. I have a relationship with him. I played with Eric (Gordon) in New Orleans. I played on the same AAU team with Brandon Knight. I grew up playing against Michael Carter-Williams. I trained with John Lucas, his crazy … After my rookie year, he had me up here for a month and then I left. I couldn’t do it. I was like, ‘I got to go.’ He was trying to kill me. He’s great. I’m familiar with everybody on the team. It’s cool.”
Rivers already heard from Lucas on Monday morning as he prepared for the start of his first Rockets practice with a few 15-foot jumpers on the baseline only to have Lucas scold him that those are not shots the Rockets take. That should not be an issue. Rivers rarely takes anything but the 3s and layups the Rockets prefer and generally looks to attack one-on-one off the dribble.
“That’s all I want to do in terms of offensively,” Rivers said. “I shot two midrange jump shots this season. My old teammates in D.C. would give me crap about that. It’s not that I refuse; I just don’t shoot them.
“That was the first thing they told me. ‘We want to shoot 3s and layups.’ You’ll get no arguments out of me.”
Coach Mike D’Antoni said Rivers will “definitely see minutes” against the Thunder on Tuesday. With Paul out with a strained hamstring, the Rockets had increased Knight’s playing time, but in six games, Knight has made three of 20 shots with one assist, indicating he is working his way back after missing all of last season following his knee surgery.
“He can give us stuff, especially with Chris out, another ball-handler/scorer,” D’Antoni said. “A guy that attacks. Can play defense. He’s a good NBA player. Makes us deeper and it keeps us from having to play Eric too many minutes and other guys. I think we match up well with him. He likes the way we play. He’ll be a welcome addition.”
Rivers will have little time to adjust and has not played since Dec. 14 while going from the Wizards to the Suns and then working out his buyout with Phoenix.
“When you’re thrown in these situations, you can’t overthink or try to be perfect,” Rivers said. “You’re not going to be. You don’t know the plays. I’m going to try to know them to the best of my capabilities, the defensive strategies, trying to fit in with guys. In a game like tomorrow, just thrown into the fire, you just have to play hard and just go have fun and everything will naturally come together.”
If nothing else, he won’t need time to get to know his teammates, especially the point guard shouting instructions from the bench. When he was no longer a teammate, Rivers returned fire, but even that, he said, shows how he will fit in.
“I think I’ve gotten into it competitive-wise with these guys because they are just like me,” Rivers said. “I think I fit more with them than I do with a lot of other teams. They have a lot of guys who have that competitive dog spirit. That’s their makeup. I definitely fit in very well here in terms of competing and doing everything I can for the team.”