“He left because he wanted to be with James Harden,” Rivers said, per Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “Let’s not get that twisted. I wish him well. I have no problem with that.”
Rivers’ comments come after the Rockets announced they acquired Paul after the point guard opted into his player option in exchange for a significant trade package.
Houston sent guard Patrick Beverley, forward Sam Dekker, forward Montrezl Harrell, guard Darrun Hilliard, guard DeAndre Liggins, guard Lou Williams, forward Kyle Wiltjer, a future first-round pick and cash considerations to the Clippers.
Rivers also weighed in on the return package, per Turner: “Under the circumstances, I thought we did terrific. Getting Patrick Beverley and Dekker and Montrezl was very important for us.”
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical explained “Paul had a strong desire to play” with Harden, which motivated the Clippers to make the trade. Had they not, the nine-time All-Star point guard could have opted out of his deal and left in free agency, leaving Los Angeles empty-handed.
Rivers also took issue with some of the stories circulating regarding Paul’s exit.
“He left because of DJ [DeAndre Jordan], he left because of Blake [Griffin] and now he left because of Austin [Rivers],” he said, per Turner. “We know he didn’t leave because of that.”
SportsCenter’s Michael Eaves reported Wednesday that Paul and a number of members on the team thought Austin Rivers acted entitled because his father was the coach and president of basketball operations. What’s more, Paul thought Rivers treated his son favorably compared to the rest of the team.
Eaves cited a source who said “Chris despises Doc,” and noted the point guard was particularly upset when Rivers turned down a trade that would have sent Carmelo Anthony to Los Angeles for a package that included Austin. “That event led Paul to feel that keeping his son on the roster was more important to Doc than improving the team,” Eaves wrote.”
Mike Wise of ESPN’s The Undefeated added more information:
Rivers expressed his distaste for how it ended with Paul, per Turner, “I hate the way it ended. I wish we could have ended it better, as far as winning. But as a franchise, we love where we’re at.”
Austin Rivers also weighed in on the controversy and rumors:
In terms of on the court, Paul now has a golden opportunity to challenge for a deep postseason run with Houston. The eight-time All-NBA player and nine-time member of an All-Defensive team joins a Rockets squad that just finished with the league’s third-best record in 2016-17.
Paul and Harden can each handle the ball and set up their teammates for open shots, and the Rockets will look to replicate their shooting after setting an NBA record with 1,181 made triples during the regular season.
Paul will likely also be looking for a better relationship with head coach Mike D’Antoni than he had with Rivers, given recent reports.
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