NBA

Austin Rivers for Marcin Gortat swap paves way for Los Angeles Clippers and Washington Wizards to make more moves

Jay Asser 27/06/2018
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Austin Rivers spent three-plus seasons being coaches by his dad, Doc.

The trade between the Los Angeles Clippers and Washington Wizards isn’t a major move on the surface, but the reverberations of the deal could be felt in the weeks to come.

The Clippers shipped guard Austin Rivers for centre Marcin Gortat on Tuesday in a swap of expiring contracts that makes sense for both teams.

For Los Angeles, the trade clears up some of the clutter at the guard position after the team selected Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson in the draft last week, adding to a group that already includes Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverley.

Rivers’ departure means the end of the first situation in NBA history where a player has been coached by his father, which came to fruition when Doc Rivers traded a second-round pick to the Boston Celtics for his son in January 2015.

The elder Rivers received criticism for nepotism, while Austin caught grief for being under the protection of his dad, which he touched upon in his farewell Instagram post.

Rivers wrote: “I know the scenario of me playing for my pops wasn’t easy for people to understand and accept ….some never will, but to the ones who did… I can’t thank you enough. Me and pops did something that has never been done in our sport!! Which was hard for a lot of people to understand but I am grateful for the time I experienced playing for him and the clippers.”

Wow, I really don’t know where to start or how to put all of my emotions and feelings into words . But I’ll just start out by saying Thank You, first and foremost to the city of LA and to the fans of the LA Clippers. You have done nothing but show me love and positivity. The acceptance you gave me along with taking a chance on me 4 years ago, means the world to me! At that time I hadn’t shown much in the league....and was still trying to learn . And for you all to accept me and give me a chance to grow and play means more than you will ever know. People really don’t understand what positivity can do for someone’s confidence. And to the clippers fan base.... I really appreciate you all helping me find my confidence in the league and cheering me along the way. I know the scenario of me playing for my pops wasn’t easy for people to understand and accept ....some never will, but to the ones who did... I can’t thank you enough. Me and pops did something that has never been done in our sport!! Which was hard for a lot of people to understand but I am grateful for the time I experienced playing for him and the clippers. I want to thank all of my team mates aka my brothers. I Really appreciate y’all helping me grow as a player and a person! I also want to thank all of the coaches and all of the staff of the clippers organization! A lot of you don’t get the credit you deserve! From the great training staff, to all the people that make our job and life that much easier, I really am thankful!! Always will love LA and consider it a home! Thanks -AR25 M.o.a.M

A post shared by Austin Rivers (@austinjrivers) on

After struggling to find his place in the NBA at the time of his arrival in Los Angeles, Rivers made himself into a useful role player with the Clippers and averaged a career-high in minutes (33.7), points (15.1), assists (4.0), rebounds (2.4), steals (1.2) and 3-point percentage (37.8) this past season.

With the Wizards, he’ll join the talented backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal as a player who can come off the bench for reliable minutes – something Washington haven’t had at the guard position in recent years.

“Acquiring Austin gives us another versatile, experienced player who provides scoring and playmaking,” Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement. “He is coming off a career year and his ability to create offence for himself and others will help our second unit and allow us to play a variety of lineups throughout the season.”

With Gortat gone, that leaves a massive void at the centre position, where only Ian Mahinmi remains. That could make Washington aggressors for Dwight Howard, who is expected to be bought out from the Brooklyn Nets after being traded by the Charlotte Hornets last week.

Even after moving Gortat, the Wizards remain over the salary cap, but Howard may be willing to join for the mid-level exception, which Washington can still offer as a taxpayer team.

The trade could also impact the future of another centre – DeAndre Jordan.

The Clippers may have acquired Gortat as a replacement to Jordan, who can opt out of his $24.1 million contract by Friday’s deadline.

Even if Jordan decides to play out the final year of his deal, Los Angeles could explore trades for the big man this summer or before February’s trade deadline.

There were rumours the Clippers were exploring deals for Jordan this past season. His skillset is limited, but the 29-year-old, who is coming off a campaign in which he averaged 12.0 points 15.2 rebounds, is one of the best lob threats and rebounders in the league.

For both the Clippers and Wizards, this trade is likely the first domino before a string of more moves.

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NBA

Los Angeles Lakers have two summers to reshape roster, says Magic Johnson

Jay Asser 27/06/2018
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Magic Johnson is trying to turn the Lakers into a contender again.

The Los Angeles Lakers appear to be facing a pivotal summer, but Magic Johnson believes the team’s window for landing a star player extends to next year.

The Lakers team president hedged on the Lakers’ hopes this summer while also putting pressure on himself in a press conference on Tuesday, when he said the franchise will only have failed in their rebuilding effort if they miss out on a big-name free agent by the end of the 2019 offseason.

“Next summer, if nobody comes and I’m still sitting here like this, then it’s a failure. But if you judge us on one summer, that’s ridiculous. Then a lot of dudes shouldn’t be in their roles. Because if we’re banking on one summer for the Lakers, we’re in trouble,” Johnson said.

“Like I told you before I took the job and when I took the job, it’s going to be a two-summer thing for the Lakers,” he added. “This summer and next summer. That’s it. If I can’t deliver I’m going to step down myself. She [team controlling owner Jeanie Buss] won’t have to fire me, I’ll step away from it, because [then] I can’t do this job.”

Johnson’s comments may indicate multiple things, with the most obvious being the Lakers are trying to soften the blow if they fail to add either LeBron James, Paul George or Kawhi Leonard this summer.

George has been linked to the Lakers for more than a year now, but there has been buzz that he’s considering spending at least one more year in Oklahoma City.

Leonard has reportedly made it clear to the San Antonio Spurs that he wants a trade to the Lakers, but he technically won’t have control over his situation until he hits free agency next summer.

And if neither George or Leonard head to Los Angeles, that may deter James from relocating out west. James alone wouldn’t turn the Lakers into a championship contender, so it’s possible he may also stay in Cleveland for another season before surveying the landscape in a year’s time.

However, Johnson’s bold statement that he will step down if he can’t return the Lakers to prominence could also mean he’s supremely confident that the team will get something done with one of the three aforementioned stars.

Either way, the next few weeks will be extremely telling.

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NBA

Houston Rockets star James Harden wins first career NBA MVP award

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James Harden has been named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player – beating the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

The Houston Rockets guard picked up the league’s most prestigious prize for the first time, a year after finishing runner-up to Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook.

His impressive 2017-18 season saw him notch up an average of 30.4 points per game as he helped guide the Rockets to a franchise record of 65 wins.

Accepting the accolade at the NBA Awards ceremony in California with his mother by his side, Harden said: “Huge shout out to the NBA. NBA and all the legends that paved the way for me to be able to play this game like I do and like I love.

“Sixth Man of the Year to MVP. Shout out to all the youngers that got a dream. Go chase that dream.”

Former winners of the award include Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant – as well as four-time victor James.

The Cleveland Cavaliers player missed out on a fifth MVP trophy following a season in which he played all 82 games for the first time in his career, averaging 27.5 points and career-highs of 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds.

Other winners at the awards included Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, who was named Rookie of the Year, and Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo, who won the Most Improved Player honour.

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