Knicks guard Austin Rivers arrived as a veteran team leader who was set to close games as a backup.
On Wednesday, in his first remarks since the Derrick Rose trade, he sounded like a man about to be traded, sometimes frustratingly forging into the past tense of his Knicks stint.
Ironically, Tom Thibodeau is friends with Rivers’ father, Doc Rivers. The Sixers were interested in Rivers entering free agency, but Doc nixed it. It’s unclear if Doc Rivers, happy his son signed with the Knicks, would be for it now.
Once Rose arrived after the Super Bowl Sunday trade with the Pistons, Rivers was removed from the rotation. Rivers revealed he had heard rumors before the season started Rose would be on the way.
“As long as I’m here, I’m here,” Rivers said. “I can’t control if I’m traded today, tomorrow or the next day. What I can control is how I am as a player and what I can bring to this team every day. That’s being ready at all times no matter if my name is called or not and to help the young, young guys be ready to play. I’ll just continue to be ready to play here as long as I’m here, for however long.”
Rivers had some memorable moments as a Knick – dominating league-best Utah in both games. But now he’s made just two appearances in the past eight games in garbage time, totaling five minutes.
Rivers said he and Thibodeau talked after the Rose trade and got the sobering news.
“They had told me after the game (on Feb. 7 vs. Miami) that they were bringing Derrick in,” Rivers said. “I had already kind of heard stuff even before the season started that he was going to be coming here. My whole thing is, control what I can control. When they had told me he was coming I said ‘okay’ and obviously there’s been stuff about me being moved to other places. With all this kind of up in the air right now, my thing is as long as I’m a Knick just to be professional. I don’t know what can happen today or tomorrow or next week or the week after that. Every day that I’m here I’m always going to be all in.”
Rivers, the former Clippers and Rockets guard, signed a three-year deal in November, but only the first season is guaranteed.
“It was no burden on me at all,” Rivers said. “I got to play basketball here and got to learn.”
When asked about Rivers’ comments about potentially being moved, Thibodeau gave his usual canned response about players on the outs.
“(He’s got to) just stay ready,” Thibodeau said. “He’s situational. The guys who aren’t in the rotation, just continue to do the things that you’ve been doing. Practices are important to us and things change quickly in this league.”