Doc on Austin Rivers: ‘I really want him back’


The in-house free agents the Clippers have going into the off-season aren’t pretty. DeAndre Jordan is the obvious big fish in the pond, a fish the Clippers want to retain but outside of that, the pickings are chalk full of replacement level NBA player: Austin Rivers, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Ekpe Udoh, Dahntay Jones.

Of the replacement level players, coach Doc Rivers has publicly expressed the want to re-sign only one of them as of today: his son Austin Rivers via Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles.

"Rivers, who was the 10th overall pick in the 2012 draft, turns 23 in August and said Sunday he wants to return to the Clippers.“People who want to criticize him don’t [realize he’s 22],” Rivers said. “That’s the way I always look at them. He’s young and he clearly helped us. I think we all have to agree with that. And I think he loved it here. I even think he liked the coach at times. You know, it’ll be interesting. I really want him back and I think it would be great to have him back and I think he’s a great fit for this team. But business is business and it’ll be an interesting thing this summer.”"

Cue the nepotism talks!

There’s nothing about Austin Rivers’ play that isn’t replaceable — outside of his random outbursts in the playoffs, Rivers has proven to be as I described above: a replacement-level player. But a scarce market in combination with little cap space space could be the deciding factor in whether Doc Rivers gives the go ahead on his son to return.

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Son of former Boston Celtics championship HC 'one of the better' free agents
Son of former Boston Celtics championship HC 'one of the better' free agents /

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    Scarce market though the five above names are arguably better than Rivers at this point in their careers. The Clippers do have the taxpayers mid-level exception at their disposal ($3.376 million) meaning a Mo Williams or C.J. Watson-type guard could be attained if their wanted salaries fall into range of the exception.

    And then there’s actually paying Austin Rivers.

    Because the New Orleans Pelicans declined Rivers’ qualifying offer at the beginning of the 2014-15 season, the CBA states the Clippers aren’t allowed to pay Rivers more than the QO which is $3.1 million — other teams can offer Rivers more. It’d be difficult justifying giving Austin Rivers $3.1 million in any circumstance. If Doc ultimately decides for Austin’s return, a  deal that makes the most sense for both parties is Austin agreeing to a paycut (Austin earned $2.43 million this season) with a player option in the second year (a la Darren Collison in 2013), betting on himself to improve his stock for the summer of 2016 where he’d be able to take advantage of the cap leap if improvements occur.

    All-in-all, it’s an interesting subplot for a team whose off-season will revolve around their ability to re-sign DeAndre Jordan. Austin Rivers is far from perfect, but at 22 years old, we could see his potential being the reason why he’s back for another run under his father.