The Clippers’ Austin Rivers thrives after he and an ex-coach clear the air

Clippers guard Austin Rivers drives against Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. during a game Dec. 28.

Clippers guard Austin Rivers drives against Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. during a game Dec. 28.

(Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA)

It took Austin Rivers’ getting “closure” from being angry with Monty Williams for the Clippers guard to find peace and to thrive in recent games.

Williams and Rivers were together when the former was the head coach with New Orleans and the latter was a rookie guard who expected immediate playing time and success that really never came under Williams’ iron-fisted rule.

When Oklahoma City — for which Williams is now an assistant coach — was in town Dec. 21 to play the Clippers at Staples Center, Rivers approached Williams before the game so the two could talk out their differences.

Rivers was out because of a sprained right ankle, but he felt the need to have a conversation with Williams.


Since that time, Rivers has been playing some of his best basketball of the season and maybe even his career, the burden lifted.

He had nine points and continued to play solid defense in a Clippers win over New Orleans on Thursday night.

“I talked to Monty and he was like, ‘Man, I made a lot of mistakes with you.’ I was like, ‘Man, I made a lot of mistakes too.’ We both did,” Rivers said. “And then when he said, ‘I used to be so hard on you when you made mistakes. I didn’t give you any leeway.’ He was like, ‘Don’t ever let anyone change your game.’ And when he said that a week ago, it just clicked for me. I don’t know what it was.”

Rivers was the 10th overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Duke, and his confidence was sky-high. But over the two-plus seasons he played for Williams in New Orleans, Rivers’ confidence wavered because of a lack of success and infrequent playing time.

“I’ve been very confident, almost cocky, my whole life,” Rivers said, smiling. “In the NBA, that’s what all good players are. But I was struggling a little bit. I started questioning myself. They didn’t give me freedom.

“I was getting my confidence back slowly. But once he said that, it just went direct. It was like all I needed was that little bit and he gave it to me. He didn’t give it to me. I got closure from it. I don’t know why, but I needed it. That, like, stamped it. Now I know who I am.”

Twitter: @BA_Turner