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Archive for the tag “Austin Rivers”

Lance Stephenson To The Los Angeles Clippers Could Be A Good Thing

Lance Stephenson is a Clipper now. What will he bring to this team? (photo courtesy of www.kid83.deviantart.com)

Lance Stephenson is a Clipper now. What will he bring to this team? (photo courtesy of http://www.kid83.deviantart.com)

The Los Angeles Clippers were almost to a place they have never been, the Western Conference Finals. They held a 3-1 lead over the Houston Rockets and many thought they had pulled it together at the right time. History was going to go the way of the Clippers finally right? Well, the Rockets decided they were not ready to go home and turned the series around quickly, erasing a 3-1 deficit and blowing out the Clippers in a crucial Game 7. The dreams of heading to the Western Conference Finals was over for Los Angeles. Fans of the game went from praising Chris Paul for coming up big in Game 7 versus the defending-champion San Antonio Spurs to wearing him out on social media for his performance in Game 7 versus the Rockets. Many took a look at the Clippers going into the offseason and wondered what all they could do. Obviously their main concern was signing center DeAndre Jordan back, but the team had more work than that to do in regards to improving their team. Well, on Tuesday night, the Clippers decided to roll the dice and make a move. The Clippers are trading small forward Matt Barnes and forward Spencer Hawes to the Charlotte Hornets for shooting guard Lance Stephenson. This trade sent shockwaves, as the Clippers are taking a chance on Stephenson to come through. As for the Hornets, they rid themselves of Stephenson, who was not very good for the Hornets, averaging an astonishing 8.2 points per game. This trade is something that makes many scratch their heads in terms of the Clippers. And it could definitely go either way in the grand scheme of things. But there are so many positives that can come out of this move.

Lance Stephenson is known as a volatile player at times. The main thought that some have is “why would Doc take on this guy”? Well, there are some positives to this one. Defensively, Stephenson is a physical defender. If you take a look at the Clippers last season, Chris Paul was their best perimeter defender. That may be good due to the state of point guards in the NBA, but you need that one wing defender that can make it happen versus guys like James Harden, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, and Andrew Wiggins. No offense to JJ Reddick, but there is no way that he is guarding any of the guys that have been mentioned. And with Reddick there, opponents would be able to put pressure on the bigs of the Clippers. With Stephenson in the lineup, it gives the Clippers a guy that can handle his own while also allowing the bigs of the Clippers to control the paint. With a coach like Doc Rivers, Stephenson could be a dream for him. With the right focus and the right coach in his ear, Stephenson has shown that he can be a good player on the defensive end. For example, look at the problems he caused at times for LeBron James when LeBron was in Miami and Stephenson was in Indiana. Now imagine if Doc can get him to focus in like that for all of the game. Along with his defensive prowess, Stephenson also brings an added toughness to the perimeter defenders that the Clippers never had. Barnes has been a tough wing defender for them, but he doesn’t bring that dog in him that Lance can bring to a team. And with him added, the toughness level of the Clippers just went up. He and DeAndre

But the effect of Stephenson is not just felt on the defensive end of the court. Stephenson has grown as an offensive player over his time in the NBA. And when he went to the Charlotte Hornets, he was expected to take that next step in his development. Instead, he went to a team that had a guard that dominated the ball in Kemba Walker. That meant that Stephenson had to play more off the ball than he was used to in his career. And that ended up in the disaster that was his lone season in Charlotte. With the Clippers, he is not going to be asked to be the main focus offensively. Some may think it’s a bad thing that he is not the focus, but it will be what is best for his career. Stephenson is a good player when he is not the main perimeter threat. With Paul there, he will take some of that burden he had in Charlotte off his hands. And there will be times where he will have to make something happen when he is off the ball. But the main effect he will have on this team is when Paul is out of the game. The Clippers did not have a solid guy off the bench last year to take over the ball-handling duties. They put guys like Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford and even let Blake Griffin play the point guard spot a little against the Houston Rockets when Paul was out due to injury. No offense to any of them, but Lance proved he can handle that position a little bit better than these guys can. He is a playmaker and the Clippers need another one of those coming in to play for them, whether it be in the starting lineup or off the bench. Either way, he would be a help to them and make their offense even more diverse than it was last season.

The biggest thing that will be good for Lance Stephenson coming to the Clippers is the leadership. In Charlotte, he was expected to be a leader. And if you know anything about Stephenson, he is not one that is ready to lead a team. He is still figuring out who he is and is considered by some not to be mentally there at all times. For a team as young as Charlotte was, there is no way that Stephenson should have ever been brought in to be a leader of that team. Sure, he is a talented player, but leadership is not one of his strong suits. With the Clippers, he is now in position to receive leadership. Doc Rivers is a guy that has been known to exhibit great leadership and be an example for his players. And many players that have played for Doc have loved every second they have played for him. His ability to focus and Stephenson will be a key ingredient in his success there if he is to have some. But not only will he be receiving leadership from Doc Rivers, but he will be receiving leadership from Chris Paul. Many have had jokes for Chris Paul over the years for his inability to make it deep in the playoffs, but the one thing you can never take away from him is his leadership abilities. Paul has a great ability to know when to push players and when to encourage them. His perfect mix of pushing buttons will be something that will help Stephenson mesh into this team seamlessly. Paul needs Stephenson there and he wants to win above all things, so he will do what needs to be done to get Stephenson up to speed.

The Clippers made a move that many did not see coming. They got younger on the perimeter while adding a guy that could have a better effect on both ends than Matt Barnes. But the biggest question mark for him is his personality. If he listens to Doc Rivers and Chris Paul, he can be a valuable assets to this team and help make them better. But if he does not listen to those two, then we could see knucklehead Lance make an appearance once again. The ball is in Lance’s court and he could potentially make himself some more money as he could potentially be a free agent after this year (Clippers hold the team option for him after the 2015-2016 season). Another bonus for the Clippers in this one is if Lance acts up, they only got rid of a backup big man they signed that failed to crack their rotation (Spencer Hawes) and a swingman that is getting long in the tooth in the NBA (Matt Barnes). The chips have been pushed to the table for Doc and he is gambling on being able to get the best out of Stephenson. This move, like the move he made last season to trade for his son midseason, will be one that will be closely watched all season long. And it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

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Doc Rivers’ Labor Of Love Helping Propel The Los Angeles Clippers

Doc and Austin Rivers share a moment. (photo courtesy of www.espn.com)

Doc and Austin Rivers share a moment. (photo courtesy of http://www.espn.com)

Doc Rivers had a decision to make this season. Plenty in the Clippers organization felt it would not be a bad idea for him to trade for his son, but Doc had to think about it. He did not want it to appear like he was doing something to hurt his team. He thought about it decided to make the deal. After Austin Rivers was traded to the Celtics around the trade deadline, Doc made the move to get his son on his team. The Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics made a trade that brought together Austin Rivers with his dad and new coach, making NBA history being the first father to coach his son in the NBA. But this move was not met with the open arms and great, warm feelings that some thought it may have been. Doc was looked at as a man that had too much power with the organization by some. After all, he is the big basketball decision-maker in the Clippers organization and he was taking a chance on his son, who was a struggling guard that had not found his niche in the NBA. Many could not get over the fact that Doc did not make a move for a small forward the Clippers needed. But Doc made the decision to help his son and maybe save his NBA career.

Austin Rivers was a dynamite guard out of the Duke University when he was a freshman. Plenty looked at his ability to make plays and score the basketball and assumed he would be a good player in the NBA immediately. The then-New Orleans Hornets were one of the teams that were sold on his skills and they took him with the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. But instead of a great scorer or contributor, the Hornets got a guy who was inconsistent with his play on the court and his shooting. And at 6’4”, the Hornets felt he was a tweener on the basketball court. They just could not find a way to use him consistently on the court. And the numbers of the younger Rivers reflected the inconsistencies. He would never average over 10 points per game with the Hornets/Pelicans and he would also never live up to the promise some thought he had coming out of Duke. He needed a lifeline and a fresh start to his career. And that lifeline came in the form of his father, watching his son from a distance. The opportunity came about for Doc to revive his career and he took it. When Austin arrived in Los Angeles, many wondered how he would be. Would he come out of his shell and go back to the guy everyone saw as a freshman at Duke or would he continue to falter in his NBA career? At first, he seemed timid and would not shoot the basketball as much. It seemed like he was trying to fit in more from a distance than just playing basketball. At times, it seemed like Doc’s love for his son had conflicted his decision as a coach. And as the Clippers were doing well, it seemed he like he was still trying to figure out who he was as an NBA player. But little did we know that we would be in store for a coming out party for Austin Rivers in the playoffs.

Plenty had wondered not only what Chris Paul would do in the playoffs, but what would happen if he went to the bench during the game. There were not many players that were sold on the fact that Austin Rivers was the backup. There were concerns about his play and what he could do out there. But the younger Rivers put that to bed in the 1st round of the playoffs. Rivers had been solid for the Clippers when Paul went to the bench, but in Game 4 he definitely stepped up. The Clippers entered that game down 2-1 to the San Antonio Spurs and needed a win in the worst way. They needed someone to step up and play big and unexpectedly Austin Rivers showed up. The young guard from Duke had 16 points on 7/8 shooting and hit both free throws he attempted. It was evident that he was not ready to go home and he was ready to announce he could play in the NBA to the world. Ever since that game, it seemed like the hate and jokes that Austin Rivers received has started to fade away. And now he is not just known as Doc Rivers’ son, but as a basketball player trying to make his mark in the NBA. He cemented that he was a guy to look out for in Game 3 versus the Rockets Friday night when he spearheaded a great run by the Clippers. Rivers had 25 points and was on fire. His numbers have been getting better by the series. He only had two games of double-figures versus the Spurs in the 1st round and in this round, he has been averaging 17 points per game off the bench for the Clippers versus the Rockets. Undoubtedly he has been the shot in the arm that Los Angeles has needed and could be one of the big keys to them heading to the Western Conference Finals perhaps. Who would have thought what looked like a labor of love by Doc Rivers towards his son would be a move that could help propel the Clippers even further? Austin Rivers has finally arrived ladies and gentlemen. And the potential that all saw when he came out of college is finally getting tapped into. All it took was the words and coaching of his dad and the confidence of his teammates in his abilities.

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