Austin Rivers approaching season like it’s his “last shot”

SAN DIEGO – Austin Rivers is nevertheless looking over his shoulder.

When you’ve seen the business end of the NBA like Rivers has – five teams since the 2017-’18 season – there’s no room for complacency. Rivers had been unceremoniously traded from the Knicks last season and then waived by Oklahoma City when he found himself sitting on the couch, wondering when the next call would come.

It came, ultimately, from Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, who’d worked with Rivers in New Orleans. The perception of Rivers didn’t match reality, and Connelly knew it. Rivers’ reputation had taken a hit, and he was forced to reckon with what had gone wrong during fleeting stops in Washington and New York.

By the time Connelly got to him, Rivers was humbled and nevertheless very hungry. Decimated by injuries, especially in their backcourt, the Nuggets took a chance on Rivers. To say it paid off would be an understatement. Without Rivers, the Nuggets would’ve been trying to knock off one of the best backcourts in the NBA – Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum – with Facundo Campazzo and Shaq Harrison. Monte Morris had just returned from injury, and Will Barton, P.J. Dozier and Jamal Murray were all hurt.

“We don’t beat Portland without Austin Rivers,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said this week from training camp in reference to his monumental Game 3 performance.

Though the Nuggets got bounced 4-0 by Phoenix in the second round, Rivers found what he was looking for: a new contract and, momentary, stability.

But already though the Nuggets brought him back on a one-year deal, Rivers, 29, doesn’t feel as if he’s safe in a league that nearly abandoned him.

“I’m not any more comfortable now than I was a year ago,” he said on The Denver Post’s Nuggets Ink podcast this week. “I’m nevertheless treating this like this is my last shot.”

On Friday afternoon, inside the University of California San Diego gym, Rivers, Campazzo and rookie Bones Hyland took it to the more veteran squad during Denver’s intra-squad scrimmage. The three-guard lineup played with speed on offense and intensity on defense. Rivers played as advertised.

According to Malone he played fast, made quick decisions, put pressure on the defense and got stops on the other end. He additional he was talking to his teammates throughout the surprising consequence.

Will Barton’s injured ankle may have provided an opening for Rivers to adventure. When the Nuggets open their preseason Monday against the Clippers, there’s a chance Rivers will be the team’s starting shooting guard, perhaps alongside Morris, Michael Porter Jr., and Aaron Gordon. Nikola Jokic’s position is uncertain after the birth of his daughter.

If everyone was healthy, Rivers would likely be battling for backup shooting guard minutes. But, as last year’s injury toll can give evidence to, Rivers’ value could be meaningful. He’s nevertheless a quick-twitch scoring guard who can get low and stay in front of his man. And because of where Rivers has been, there’s no role he’s unwilling to play. If he can help a team win, in any capacity, he said he’s up for it.

“I’m really thrilled that he’s back,” Malone said. “clearly, it’s not just his offense. I think Austin is an underrated defender.”

Click: See details

Leave a Reply