Austin Rivers thinks Phoenix is a lovely place.
He just wasn’t trying to play for the Suns.
“I knew I wouldn’t come here,” Rivers said. “I wouldn’t come here. They knew that.”
When finally settling on a trade in December to send Trevor Ariza to Washington, the Suns got Kelly Oubre Jr. and addressed their need at point guard with Rivers.
Oubre joined the Suns in Boston before they played the Celtics.
“They understood where I was at,” Rivers said. “I’m not old. I’m only 26, but where I’ve been. I’ve been on playoff teams the past five years. That’s kind of the route I wanted and I felt like was best for me, especially in a contract year. I want to be in the playoffs. I want to compete for something.”
So, the Suns (11-43) bought out Rivers’ contract.
“I don’t want to be part of a team — no disrespect — obviously they’re trying to find themselves,” Rivers said. “They’re trying to get draft picks. I’ve never been in that situation. I don’t know if I would’ve handled that the best way and I think they knew that and understood that. If I would’ve came here, I would’ve been professional and would’ve played hard and tried to help younger guys out, but obviously I felt like what was best suited for me, me and my team thought playing for a playoff team would do that.”
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Rivers sought an experienced playoff contender and wound up on the Rockets (30-22) with reigning MVP James Harden and Chris Paul.
“When this had happened, we had talked to Phoenix, it was a mutual thing,” said Rivers of himself and his agent. “This isn’t what we wanted and that’s not what they were trying to do.”
Rivers isn’t sure how things would have worked out had he come to Phoenix.
“I don’t know if I would’ve gotten in the way of that,” Rivers continued. “If I would’ve helped them win games even more. I don’t know, but it was one of those situations where I wanted to go to a playoff team and obviously I was able to work out a deal with them.”
But joining a playoff team isn’t so easy. Rivers had to wait for a contender to call.
“You sit there for a couple of days, and like, ‘Man, I’m not with a team right now,’ ” Rivers said. “But I’ve already made that decision so you got to lay in the bed. I already made the bed. So I got to lay in it. I knew I was going to get picked up by a team, but when you want to play for a playoff team, usually playoff teams are pretty good because their rosters are pretty good. You have to be patient. It’s not like there’s going to be 10 playoff teams that say ‘Come play for us’ because a lot of them are filled out. you have to wait for the right one.”
Houston checked all the boxes for Rivers.
“There’s guys out there going through it for months, weeks,” Rivers said. “Mine lasted a week. Not even. It was five days. I had three offers and I went with Houston.”
Rivers mentioned how one of his close friends, Michael Carter-Williams, is still out of the league.
“I went crazy for four days,” Rivers said. “My agent probably hated me that week. I’m like, ‘Where the hell am I going?’ But everything worked out for the best.”
So Rivers finally came to Phoenix as a member of the Rockets for Monday’s game and couldn’t help but notice the connections between the two teams.
“This is like a homecoming for a lot of players,” Rivers said. “We basically like the Phoenix Rockets. We’ve got (Mike D’Antoni), Irv (Roland), Gerald (Green), P.J. (Tucker), Marquese (Chriss). Who else? Brandon (Knight). It’ll be interesting for them.”
Rivers was with the Wizards for just 29 games, but loved Oubre’s “free spirit.”
“The situation in D.C. was not good for either one of us, really,” Rivers said. “They had a lot of stuff they were dealing with over there internally they had to figure out. We unfortunately had to be a part of it, but we both handled it professionally and it ended up great for both us. He got to go here where he’s got a chance to show his offensive abilities and I’ve got to go to an experienced team where I’ve got to do the same thing for a championship caliber team. Neither of us are complaining.”
Rivers is averaging 10.8 points per game over 20 games with the Rockets. He’s made 13 starts in place of Paul, who was dealing with a hamstring injury.
Oubre is averaging a career-high 14.5 points per game with the Suns.
“It’s a mutual thing,” Rivers said. “I think (the Suns are) trying to find guys. They’re trying to get draft picks. Bottom line. Everybody knows that. They’re going to be one of those teams. They’re going to get a special player in this upcoming draft to go along with (Deandre) Ayton and (Devin) Booker. So they’re not far away from getting some guys there. I do feel like if I had come here, I would’ve helped them a lot, but like I said, it wasn’t the place for me because obviously, I’m not there. Everything works out.”