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Austin Rivers says his not-so-pleasant past with Chris Paul is just that — a thing of the past.
Former teammates on the Los Angeles Clippers, Rivers and Paul are together again, this time as guards for the Houston Rockets.
According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, after being asked about scoring more points against Houston last season while with the Clippers than he did against any other opposing team, Rivers mentioned the night Rockets players went to the Clippers locker room at Staples Center looking for him.
“For better or worse, right?” Rivers said, according to Feigen. “If we ever play in LA, me and CP (Paul) know all the tunnels. We’ll be all right there.
“It’s funny. This is a team I always admired and wanted to play for with (Mike) D’Antoni and the way they play, getting up and down. It’s a very fitting place.”
It was after an emotional game last season that some Rockets players, including Paul, went to the Clippers locker room in a quest to get to Rivers and former Rockets guard Patrick Beverley, a move which earned Houston’s Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green suspensions.
Rivers denied there are issues between him and Paul, currently sidelined with an injured left hamstring, an injury that led to Houston signing Rivers, who said he and Paul worked out with each other last summer.
“I have no problems with Chris, as you guys will see,” Rivers said. “Obviously, if I had a problem with Chris I wouldn’t be here. Chris has a huge input on this team as he should. He’s a Hall-of-Fame point guard. If that was that serious, I wouldn’t be here. That will show you that’s not real.
“I know Chris Paul well. I have a relationship with him. I played with Eric (Gordon) in New Orleans. I played on the same AAU team with Brandon Knight. I grew up playing against Michael Carter-Williams. I trained with John Lucas, his crazy ass. After my rookie year, he had me up here for a month and then I left. I couldn’t do it. I was like, ‘I got to go.’ He was trying to kill me. He’s great. I’m familiar with everybody on the team. It’s cool.”
Rivers 3s-and-layups offensive game would seem to be a perfect fit for D’Antoni’s system.
“That’s all I want to do in terms of offensively,” Rivers said. “I shot two midrange jump shots this season. My old teammates in D.C. would give me crap about that. It’s not that I refuse; I just don’t shoot them.
“That was the first thing they told me. ‘We want to shoot 3s and layups.’ You’ll get no arguments out of me.”
For his part, D’Antoni said Rivers will “definitely see minutes” when the Rockets take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Christmas Day.
“He can give us stuff, especially with Chris out, another ball-handler/scorer,” D’Antoni said. “A guy that attacks. Can play defense. He’s a good NBA player. Makes us deeper and it keeps us from having to play Eric too many minutes and other guys. I think we match up well with him. He likes the way we play. He’ll be a welcome addition.”
It’s been a whirlwind of late for Rivers. He has not played in a game since Dec. 14 with the Washington Wizards, who traded him and forward Kelly Oubre Jr. to the Phoenix Suns for Ariza. The Suns promptly waived Rivers, freeing him to sign with the Rockets.
“When you’re thrown in these situations, you can’t overthink or try to be perfect,” Rivers said. “You’re not going to be. You don’t know the plays. I’m going to try to know them to the best of my capabilities, the defensive strategies, trying to fit in with guys.
“In a game like (Tuesday), just thrown into the fire, you just have to play hard and just go have fun and everything will naturally come together.”
Rivers’ fiery disposition should also fit well with the Rockets, who held a 3-2 lead on Golden State in the Western Conference Finals last season only to be KO’d after Paul suffered a pulled right hamstring in the last minute of a Game 5 win.
“I think I’ve gotten into it competitive-wise with these guys because they are just like me,” Rivers said. “I think I fit more with them than I do with a lot of other teams. They have a lot of guys who have that competitive dog spirit. That’s their makeup.
“I definitely fit in very well here in terms of competing and doing everything I can for the team.”