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Austin Rivers lays out blueprint for turning Knicks into attractive Free Agent destination

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 12/2/2020 Stefan Bondy, New York Daily News
Austin Rivers, c, has the most experience in the playoffs than the rest of the Knicks' current roster. © Ashley Landis/Getty Images/New York Daily News/TNS Austin Rivers, c, has the most experience in the playoffs than the rest of the Knicks' current roster.

Austin Rivers, a second generation Knick, feels an obligation to restore the franchise to its long-ago prominence.

Even though this current iteration of the roster isn’t equipped for contention, Rivers outlined the blueprint for turning New York into an attractive destination for stars. He watched his father, Doc, perform similar magic as coach of the Clippers three seasons ago, when his rebuilding squad overachieved into the playoffs and signed Kawhi Leonard the following summer.

“I look at this team and I remember my pops, a couple years ago, the Clippers had a team where they had to trade everybody away. They traded Chris (Paul) and Blake (Griffin) and JJ (Redick) and Jamal (Crawford), myself, and they kind of had a restart team,” Rivers said. “But they played so well, they went to the playoffs and they competed against the Warriors in the first round, which made it an attractive team where superstars wanted to go there because they knew the role players were solid. So we got to make this attractive.”

Of course, the Clippers also carried a more recent history of success and Steve Ballmer as the owner. The Knicks have plenty of 2021 cap space for a run at Leonard or Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they haven’t made the playoffs for seven straight years. The postseason is a longshot this season based on projections. Rivers, however, is setting a high bar and already looking at potential threats for a top-8 finish.

He emerged from his first media session Wednesday as the team’s most passionate and expressive spokesman.

“I’m looking already at the eight spots and who’s going to be slotted where, who we have to beat out to try to get in there, or at least compete to try to get there,” Rivers said. “We’re not here just to play and lose. That’s what I do. (Thibodeau) is not for that. Thibs is not good at that. Thibs is a great coach. He wants to win.”

Like most of the Knicks, Rivers’ rotation spot is up in the air with as many as five point guards at Thibodeau’s disposal. Rivers is by far the most experienced in the playoffs and the third-oldest on the roster at 28. He signed for three years, $10 million (although only one year is guaranteed) and said he rejected three or four other suitors that were all playoff contenders.

Twenty-six years after his father reached the NBA Finals at MSG — and after several superstars like Kevin Durant and LeBron James spurned the Knicks in free agencies — Rivers wants to show that this is a good start-up.

“We’re caught in an era where everyone likes riding a wave,” Rivers said. “People want to go to places that are already on the rise and going to franchises that are already doing really well. And people have lost interest in going somewhere and making something great. I don’t understand someone not wanting to play for a city like New York. I just don’t get that. I don’t understand that. For me the opportunity was obvious.”


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