Austin Rivers was serious when he said there were no problems with the Los Angeles Clippers. At least, so he thought. Rivers had already been forced to address issues between his head coach father and Clippers players multiple times this summer, and they resurfaced again when Chris Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets late last month.
Rumors swirled after the trade that Paul wasn’t happy with the direction the Clippers were going with Rivers and his son. And while Glen “Big Baby” Davis calling out Doc and Austin Rivers is one thing, but if a star like Chris Paul had problems with how their relationship impacted the Clippers, it’s a serious issue.
And according to a report from ESPN’s Michael Eaves, the discord stemmed from a trade for Carmelo Anthony that never happened.
Paul’s relationship with Doc Rivers started to deteriorate rapidly after the Clippers acquired Austin Rivers. Several members of the team felt Austin acted entitled because his dad was both the coach and the President of Basketball Operations. In the view of the tenured players, Austin Rivers never tried to fit in, and when players tried to address the situation with him, he still did not respond the way the core of the team wanted him to. It led to resentment within the locker room, which often played out during games. One of Paul’s biggest contentions with Doc was that Paul, and other players, felt Doc treated Austin more favorably than other players. He would yell at guys for certain things during games and practices, but not get on Austin in the same manner for similar transgressions.
But what really solidified Paul’s dissatisfaction with Doc was a proposed trade involving Carmelo Anthony last season. New York offered Carmelo and Sasha Vujacic to the Clippers in exchange for Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce and Austin Rivers, a deal to which Rivers ultimately said no. That event led Paul to feel that keeping his son on the roster was more important to Doc than improving the team. So, ultimately, Paul lost both trust and faith in Doc. As one league executive put it, “Chris despises Doc.”
USA Today caught up with Austin Rivers in Las Vegas and asked about the rumors, and he said he actually called Paul to ask if there was anything the two needed to clear up.
“I called Chris and was like, ‘Chris, what’s going on?’’” Austin Rivers told USA TODAY Sports while in town to watch NBA summer league. “Chris is like, ‘This is the biggest bull(expletive) I’ve ever seen in my life.’ Chris was just like, ‘This is a joke.’ So I asked him, I’m like, ‘You don’t need to come out and say nothing publicly, I don’t need you to do that. It’s just going to make it even more, now they’re going to drag it out two more days. I’ll take it. I don’t care. I’ve been dealing with this (dynamic) since I was six (years old). I really don’t even care.’”
Paul, for his part, has publicly denied that there was a confrontation or that he resented Austin or Doc. In an interview with The Undefeated on Tuesday, Paul said he called Austin after the trade went down and talked things over, but there was no animosity between the two.
Just like I called Blake and those guys, I called Austin. I wish him the best of luck with what he has going on in the future. … No, that report wasn’t true. If anything, Austin has grown up a lot and is getting better. I heard the report. It’s not worth responding to.
Paul spoke highly of his former coach in the interview, and he’s been very good about not casting blame on anyone still with the Clippers. Everyone involved has said it was just time to move on, but you can’t help but wonder if there was something more at play here.