Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Imagine you’re Doc Rivers arriving home Tuesday night.

“Hi honey, how was work?” asks your wife, Kristen.

“Fine,” you say. “Nothing out of the ordinary … except we traded Austin.”

The Rivers’ next family reunion might be a little awkward when dad bumps into the son he coached with the Los Angeles Clippers. But the business of pro sports respects no bonds, blood or otherwise.

“We experienced a lot of success with Austin and are grateful for his contributions during his four seasons with the club,” Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said in a statement. “The Clippers wish Brittany and Austin all the best in Washington.”

The first father-son, coach-player relationship in NBA history has ended, highlighting the fact that Doc Rivers no longer calls the shots for the Clippers. He was relieved of those duties last summer.

Meanwhile, Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld continues at the helm in D.C., and the Austin Rivers trade joins a long list of moves that follow the same pattern: Misstep. Misstep. Recover. Repeat.

Acquiring Rivers falls between the gaps. The combo guard undeniably creates greater flexibility for a constipated roster that included Marcin Gortat, Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith. Sending Gortat to the Clippers was a much-needed movement, but the other two blockages remain.

Unfortunately, neither Mahinmi nor Smith can adequately fill the hole at starting center; they’re borderline as effective backups.

“We appreciate Marcin’s contributions during his time with us and wish him the best moving forward,” Grunfeld said in a statement. “He is a very durable professional who helped the team in many ways to become a perennial playoff contender.”

As a player who regularly has reached the postseason lately but never advanced to a conference final, Rivers should fit right in.

On a serious note, he adds scoring off the bench and depth behind John Wall and Bradley Beal. His ability to play either backcourt spot should make the Wizards more formidable when one or both All-Stars are off the floor. Rivers also gives coach Scott Brooks more options for three-guard lineups amid the NBA’s small-ball revolution.

Before departing for summer vacation, Wall said the Wizards needed to upgrade the bench and add athletic big men. Rivers and first-round draft pick Troy Brown check the first box, but the team’s overall outlook can’t improve without the other priority being met. Speed and agility drills can only go so far (not very) in transforming Mahinmi and Smith into new-wave centers.

However, this might be the perfect time for a Grunfeld blockbuster, a talked-about potential move that has split Wizards fans into those who love the idea and those who abhor it.

Grunfeld could steal a line from the 1978 hit song by Taste of Honey and decide he wants to “boogie oogie oogie” till he just can’t boogie no more.

In case you haven’t heard, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins is an unrestricted free agent. The New Orleans Pelicans center and Wall’s former Kentucky roommate is coming off a season-ending Achilles rupture, but otherwise is one of the game’s best big men. He was averaging 25 points, 13 rebounds and five assists per game when he went down, season averages that would put him among a handful of elite players.

He also has been one of the league’s moodier and more-volatile players since being drafted fifth overall in 2010, four spots behind Wall. Proponents of Cousins-in-D.C. believe his friendship with the Wizards’ de facto captain would have a calming effect.

Opponents of the pairing believe Cousins has irreparable character issues that would taint the locker room. And that was before he suffered an injury that has altered the career trajectories of many players.

All things considered, Grunfeld should roll the dice and try to land Cousins.

That surely would require Otto Porter to be the linchpin in a sign-and-trade, but it’s worth a shot. Wall, Beal and Cousins would constitute an impressive Big Three if the latter returns to form. With LeBron James potentially headed West, the Wizards could make a splash and become a better challenge for Boston and Philadelphia.

The team improved by acquiring Rivers, but not enough to change its prospects considerably. Since Grunfeld retains the trust of Ted Leonsis despite a loud chorus that questions the owner’s sanity, there’s nothing to lose by attempting a bold stroke.

As the Clippers former president gets used to basketball life without his son, the Wizards president should try to reunite two college teammates.

• Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

• Deron Snyder can be reached at deronsnyder@gmail.com.

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