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Austin Rivers Running out of Chances to Land Future with New Orleans Pelicans

this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; Late in the third quarter of the New Orleans Pelicans ’ 107-112 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 10, Austin Rivers summarized his entire NBA career. The 22-year-old guard knocked down a big three-pointer to give his team a ...

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Old 12-15-2014, 09:30 AM   #1
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Austin Rivers Running out of Chances to Land Future with New Orleans Pelicans

Late in the third quarter of the New Orleans Pelicans’ 107-112 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 10, Austin Rivers summarized his entire NBA career.

The 22-year-old guard knocked down a big three-pointer to give his team a 76-75 lead with less than 30 seconds left.

Heading into the fourth with a lead would’ve been huge for New Orleans’ confidence against one of the NBA’s elite. But after the triple, Devin Harris blew right by Rivers for a wide-open layup to retake control.

Three years into the league, that’s who Rivers has been—a player whose flashes of productivity are overshadowed by inexplicable miscues.

The Pelicans took the former Duke standout with the 10th pick in 2012, and they were let down when he shot 37.2 percent from the field (6.2 points) his rookie year. Last season he slightly bounced back and contributed 7.7 points while converting at a mark of 40.5.

Nearly a quarter of the way through 2014-15, Rivers is averaging 6.9 points on 40 percent shooting for the 11-12 Pelicans. He’s rapidly approaching the point where “potential” will soon be replaced by “bust” in conversations about him.

As his first date with free agency looms this summer, Rivers has been handed a bigger role—and a chance to play himself into a contract—with starting shooting guard Eric Gordon (torn labrum) on the sidelines.

To be frank, he’s blowing it.

Another Disappointing Year (So Far) in 2014-15

New Orleans is greatly lacking in the small forward department. While Gordon is an SG, the team managed to cover up its SF deficiency with a three-guard lineup that included Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Gordon.

Rivers got handed two starts with Gordon out, and was so bad—as in 1-of-13 shooting—that Luke Babbitt has been given seven straights runs with the first five.

During Gordon’s eight-game absence, Rivers’ playing time has been sporadic, but he’s had six games of 20-plus minutes. Disappointingly, he’s managed to shoot just 32.8 percent for 6.2 points in that time.

“With any other team I would love to start, but with this specific team, to be honest, I would rather come off the bench because it fits me better,” Rivers said on Dec. 5, per Jeff Caplan of Fox Sports New Orleans. “I have my own unit, I have the ball in my hand and I get to go out there and play free and I have a better rhythm.”

Despite his struggles, Rivers remains as confident as ever. Via Caplan:
I could be very valuable, and I try to say that as modest as possible because Eric goes down and he's a primetime player. If you have someone step up, it just adds another dimension to the team. I really think—I'm not even going to say if—when I do that, it can help this team so much because it's going to make us deeper off the bench.

New Orleans is still waiting for Rivers’ words to translate into on-court actions.

This is a guy who’s been a star for most of his basketball life, so his bravado is understandable...to a certain extent.

To succeed at the highest level, it’s almost necessary to have a little bit of swag in your step and a chip on your shoulder. But once Rivers reached the pros, he was no longer the best player on the floor—and unfortunately for New Orleans, he’s yet to adjust his game to the level of competition.

The third-year man boasts a slick handle along with a quick first step. When he puts the defender on his heels, Rivers is very effective at making plays. But if he can’t shake his man—which is often the case—he’s lost.

Defensively, Rivers is tough to watch. Per 100 possessions, he’s allowing 113 points, per Basketball-Reference, the worst number on the team. John Salmons couldn’t guard the guy selling hot dogs and even he is allowing fewer points.

It doesn’t appear as though the cause for Rivers’ porous defense is a lack of effort. His offensive quickness just doesn’t translate to the other end of the floor, and his feet are often made to look like cinderblocks when he’s matched up with a serviceable opponent.

At just 22 years old, Rivers is young and raw, but he has capability to become a dynamic player. And every so often, he’ll lead you to think that he’s on the cusp of taking that leap from potential to productive.

With 10 minutes, 14 seconds to go in the second quarter against the Mavs, Rivers beat the defensively stout Jae Crowder off the dribble, drew a foul and stepped to the line. The first shot was money, nothing but nylon.

The referee tossed him the ball for shot No. 2, and Rivers didn’t even make it to the net—it was an embarrassing air ball.

Mark Jackson, who was calling the nationally televised game with Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Tirico, poked fun at the way Rivers blew on his hands after the miss as if the temperature had anything to do with the shot.

And there it was again—another reality check. Just when you start to think Rivers could reach his ceiling, he air-balls a foul shot.

Letting an Opportunity Slip Away

Over the summer, the Pelicans declined to pick up the fourth year of Rivers’ rookie deal, which would’ve kept him around next season for the price of roughly $3 million.

Instead, he’ll become a free agent after 2014-15.

Nakia Hogan of NOLA.com spoke to Rivers about the move back in late October and got some interesting quotes from the guard:
Everything happens for a reason. At the end of the day, all that does is put a chip on my shoulder. I look at it as a challenge for me just to prove them wrong and to get better each day and, at the end of the year, to be the last one laughing about this. That's my focus.

If anything, this is actually a good situation for me. This is a good year for me to break out, have a break-out season so I can be a free agent. And I can be a lot more comfortable this summer. I'm not mad at it at all to be honest. It actually just makes me more anxious and excited to go out there and have fun. This is my option year now. Now I am excited.

Rivers was spot-on when he said that it’d be a good year for him to break out, and keep in mind that this interview took place before Gordon even got hurt. He also added this nugget: “It's business. I'm going to do what I have to do. So I am just going to go out there and play and make them pay for it.”

New Orleans will have a chance to enter next year with a significantly different roster. Gordon is expected to pick up his player option, which will leave seven Pelicans, including Rivers, on the unrestricted market for 2015.

Anthony Davis, who is in for enormous payday two summers from now, Ryan Anderson, Holiday, Evans and Gordon—the team’s clear-cut top five players—will be the only ones signed on for 2015-16.

Gordon has recently begun to add shooting drills to his rehab and could be back in three to four weeks, per NOLA.com's John Reid, which would take a serious chunk out of Rivers’ PT. Until then, the former Dukie will see a healthy dose of minutes in the backcourt.

This season is far from over, and Rivers’ hopes of playing himself into a quality deal are not yet dead. His NBA future, which once glimmered with promise, could be determined by his play throughout the rest of this season.

Rivers is still extremely young and playing on a developing team, so don't write him off just yet.

But the clock is ticking on him—almost as fast as Devin Harris barreling down the lane.

All stats are accurate as of Dec. 14 courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com. Contract information from HoopsHype was also used.

Read more New Orleans Pelicans news on BleacherReport.com

Halo is offline  
Old 12-15-2014, 04:59 PM   #2
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Re: Austin Rivers Running out of Chances to Land Future with New Orleans Pelicans

Losing hope on Rivers. Can't shoot. Not elite physically.
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