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Austin Rivers on mutually parting with Suns: ‘They’re trying to get draft picks’

Houston Rockets' Austin Rivers (25) goes up for a shot as Memphis Grizzlies' Shelvin Mack (6) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Houston. The Rockets won 112-94. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Leave it to Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers to give an honest assessment of the Phoenix Suns.

Rivers, if you recall, reached a buyout with the Suns earlier this year after being traded to Phoenix and before suiting up for the team.

He was a part of the mid-December trade that also sent former Washington Wizards teammate Kelly Oubre Jr. to the Suns in exchange for Trevor Ariza. Phoenix kept Oubre Jr., but it agreed to waive Rivers, who later signed with Houston.

In Arizona for the Rockets-Suns game on Monday night, Rivers explained why he didn’t want to join the Suns.

“I don’t want to be part of a team — no disrespect — like, obviously they’re trying to find themselves, they’re trying to get draft picks,” he said. “I’ve never been in that situation. I don’t know if I would’ve handled that the best way. If I would have came here, I would have been professional, I would have played hard and tried to help younger guys out.

“They’re trying to get draft picks, bottom line. I do feel like if I would’ve came here, I would have helped them a lot.”

The Suns have been accused of tanking over the past two years. This year was supposed to be different.

They signed Ariza and in a swap acquired power forward Ryan Anderson before the year began. Both spoke of changing the culture in Phoenix.

After the Suns fired general manager Ryan McDonough days before the season started, team owner Robert Sarver said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Burns & Gambo that he made the change to co-interim GM James Jones because progress hadn’t come quickly enough.

“We discussed a number of opportunities I felt like were realistic in terms of what progress would look like and, ultimately for me, the rate of progress wasn’t there where I thought it needed to be,” Sarver said.

“I think we’re at the end of a rebuild,” he added. “For me, the switch has flipped and it’s now time to start figuring out how to win.”

But Ariza quickly grew tired of the losing, leading to his trade well before Thursday’s trade deadline. Anderson played a key role in the first 11 games but hasn’t appeared once since Dec. 4.

The Suns entered Monday’s game against the Rockets with an 11-43 record.

And that brings us back to Rivers’ comments Monday.

He said his situation in Houston has gone well just as Oubre’s in Phoenix, where the 23-year-old combo forward has flashed his defensive upside, athleticism and shooting stroke.

But from briefly dealing with Phoenix, Rivers’ perception of the strategy by the Suns’ front office doesn’t jibe well with what the team has communicated publicly.

“It was a mutual thing,” Rivers said. “We’re like, this isn’t what we wanted and this is not what they were trying to do. They’re trying to rebuild — not rebuild but they’re trying to get draft picks and stuff like that. Me being here wasn’t going to — I don’t know if I’d have gotten in the way of that of having them win games, I don’t know. It was one of those situations where I wanted to go to a playoff team.

“It was no negative (discussions) … it was moreso like they understood where I was at. I’m not old, I’m only 26. Where I’ve been, I’ve been on playoff teams the past four, five years. That’s kind of the route I wanted to (take), I felt like was best for me, especially in a contract year.”’s Kellan Olson contributed to this story.

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