Nepotism is a strong word, and the Los Angeles Clipper fans have had to deal with it more than any other fan base in the National Basketball Association has in recent history, if not ever. It all started when Doc Rivers, the Clippers current Head Coach and former President of Basketball Operations, orchestrated a trade to acquire Austin Rivers, his son, from the New Orleans Pelicans.
Since then, Austin has appeared in 206 games for the franchise, with 60 of them coming as a starter. His numbers aren’t anything special, as he is scoring over ten a night in just under 25 minutes. Connecting on 36% from range isn’t anything to scoff at, neither is his defensive intensity.
Clipper Nation was grumbling about the nepotism since the start, as Doc went as far as claiming that other members of the front office were the ones who came up with the idea to acquire Austin. Not only did they put the idea in his head, they also went as far as needing to pursuade him that the move would be beneficial to the franchise.
What the Clippers gave up for Austin wasn’t a high price tag, on a former 10th overall selection that was improving every year. Albeit, the improvements were relatively miniscule. Reggie Bullock, a Doc first round selection, was sent to Phoenix while journeyman Chris Douglas-Roberts and the Clippers 2017 SRP was sent to Boston. The Celtics took Jabari Bird with the second rounder this past June.
Interesting note, the pick the New Orleans Pelicans used to select Austin Rivers was a part of the Chris Paul trade, which was originally the Minnesota Timberwolves and a part of the Sam Cassell trade.
His debut season saw Austin appear in 41 games, playing 19.3 minutes and contributing with 7.1 points a night. He greatly struggled from the arc, shooting just 31%. Improvements were made the following year, as he jumped up to nine points and hit 33.5% from the three in 22 minutes. During the playoffs, however, is when Austin won over a lot of Clipper fans, playing through a busted eye in the playoffs against Portland, as the short handed Clippers fell in six games.
The love from the fans didn’t last very long, as Doc gave Austin a longer leash than the rest of the franchise, and didn’t seem keen on trying to develop any of the other first round picks he had made, dealing away C.J. Wilcox, as he did Bullock, and giving Brice Johnson sparse playing time, while declining his third year.
A total makeover takes place as the roster went over a major overhaul, along with the front office. Chris Paul decided that he wanted to leave yet another franchise while sixth man extraordinaire, Jamal Crawford, was traded away. In management, Doc was relieved of his duties as President and the Logo, Jerry West, was brought in as a consultant.
Everything was going good in the BlakEra, as the team started out with four straight wins, being the last undefeated, despite Milos Teodosic getting hurt halfway through game two. Injuries didn’t stop there, as Patrick Beverly went out, Danillo Gallinari went out and then, Blake Griffin gets hurt.
Playing without three starters for a good stretch, the Clippers end up dropping nine in a row, dropping to an abysmal 5-11. They recover with three straight victories against bottom dwellers before Blake gets hurt, leading to a four game skid that came to an end against the Wizards this evening.
Injuries caused the Clippers to play Austin more, much to the chigrin of the fans, many of whom claim they would rather bring retired veterans, such as, Baron Davis, Rick Brunson and Doug Overton to suit up. Others wanting guys like Monta Ellis, Nate Robinson and Deron Williams off the free agency list.
A minority third party, however, still exists and believes Austin can continue to develop and is a solid fit for the franchise. Looking at his numbers over the last eight games, it’s hard to argue Austin’s improved impact, with the hopes that it continues.
Needing to carry more of a scoring load, Austin is averaging 19.3 a night while hitting 44% from three point range and 47.5% overall. He’s averaging over six threes a night. That is the boost that Los Angeles needs, and will continue to do so until the return of Griffin and Teodosic.
Of course, Austin isn’t the lone Clipper stepping up, as Lou “Gotti” Williams is averaging around 26 a night and hitting well over 45% of his shots from behind the arc.
Despite his play as of late, the majority of Clipper Nation continues to criticize his every mistake while downplaying his contributions. And that needs to change. Rivers is a NBA-quality player, and though, he has received more benefit from his coaching staff, due to nepotism, he has improved every year to this point, and that should continue.