The Los Angeles Clippers traded guard Austin Rivers to the Washington Wizards for center Marcin Gortat in June. Tonight, he will face his former team for the first time.
Austin Rivers has had an interesting journey in the NBA. Rivers was widely considered to be one of the best high school players in the country. In fact, ESPN.com had him ranked as their top shooting guard in the 2011 recruiting class.
Rivers continued his strong play at Duke. He was then drafted tenth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Hornets.
However, Rivers played only two and a half seasons with the Hornets/Pelicans and did not live up to his potential. In his final season with New Orleans, he averaged only 6.8 points per game while shooting 38.7% from the field and 28% from three.
New Orleans traded him to the Boston Celtics, and the Celtics sent him to the Los Angeles Clippers a few days later. The move was placed under scrutiny, because Doc Rivers, who was the president of basketball operations at the time, was Rivers’s father.
Rivers received a lot of criticism because he was being coached by his father. Nevertheless, his game massively improved over four and a half seasons with the Clippers. Last season, he averaged 15.1 points, 4 assists, and 1.2 steals, which were all career-highs. Rivers shot a career-high 37.8% from three, as well.
Despite his success, Rivers was traded to the Washington Wizards during the offseason in exchange for center Marcin Gortat. The Clippers had too many guards on the roster and needed to add a center to replace DeAndre Jordan.
However, the change of scenery might be exactly what Rivers needed. He struggled in New Orleans and was labeled a draft bust by that team, then he did not receive the credit that he eventually deserved in Los Angeles because of his connection to his father.
Playing in Washington gives Rivers a fresh start, and if he continues his strong play from last season, he might finally get some respect around the league. Rivers is the sixth man for the Wizards. He is playing behind the talented backcourt ofBradley Beal and John Wall.
Tonight will mark the first time that Rivers will face his former team. Although I was conflicted about Rivers during his first two seasons, he developed into a good player and earned my respect.
In a recent article for the Los Angeles Times, Rivers had this to say about his time with the Clippers, “I love the Clippers organization, how could I not? I came there as a kid and developed into a man. I came there as an unprofessional and developed into a professional and came in there as an OK player leaving as a starting-level player. So everything I did there I appreciate.”