Austin Rivers/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers
The subject line in the email sent by Fox Sports Radio read, “Austin Rivers says the Clippers have moved the ball better without Blake Griffin.”
The younger Rivers, a backup guard, did an interview this week with the Steve Gorman Sports show. He was asked by Jeffrey Gorman, “… You guys are humming without the great Blake Griffin. How does he come back and everything is seamless?”
Rivers’ response was emailed to Clippers beat writers.
“You’ve got to understand, because we haven’t played with Blake, our ball movement has been a lot better,” Austin Rivers said, according to the transcript. “I think we learned a mutual thing that’s like, ‘All right, listen Blake, since you’ve been out, we’ve learned to move the ball better, so when you come back, we’re still going to play like that. But now we have you back, we’re still going to play through you at the same time.’
“So I think we’ve both have learned things. There’s times when it’s obvious we need Blake, so I think it’s a learning experience for both of us. There’s no way we could be worse with Blake Griffin back on our team. It’s not possible. He’s one of the best players in the NBA, so we can’t wait to have him back.”
Rivers was rather stunned to find out that the station thought his comments controversial enough to send them out. He told reporters prior to Saturday’s game against the visiting Atlanta Hawks what he was trying to convey.
“I meant to say, like, we have to move the ball better without Blake,” he said. “I mean, it’s like, common (sense). I thought people would be smart enough to know what that means. Blake’s not playing, obviously we have to move the ball. I said that in that interview as well, that we’re a better team with Blake. Without Blake, we have to move the ball better.”
Rivers offered an analogy.
“It’s like if Cleveland played without LeBron (James), they’d have to figure out a way to move the ball because their best player is not playing,” he said. “It’s common sense.”
Austin’s father, Clippers coach Doc Rivers, suggested that what his son said was misconstrued.
“No, I don’t think he meant to say that, the way that sounds,” Doc Rivers said. “The ball movement has been better, but the ball movement started moving right before Blake left. … Probably about two or three weeks before Blake got injured, our ball movement changed.
“Really, the second unit’s ball movement changed as well when we started playing Cole (Aldrich) and Pablo (Prigioni) as well. Our ball movement won’t change at all (upon Griffin’s return). I think, if anything, it may increase.”
Griffin (quad tendon, fractured hand) has not played since Dec. 25. He could be back around the middle of this month, or shortly thereafter.