Austin Rivers sheds light on 'frustrating' Rockets offense

Austin Rivers is speaking out about his time in Houston.

The Rockets’ offense centers around perennial MVP contender James Harden, but Rivers said his dominance of the ball was difficult at times.

“You have guys like Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, and you have other guys waiting, trying to help even more, but our system is designed around it,” Rivers said on ESPN’s First Take Friday. “It was a circle of everybody trying to figure out how do we change this, who do we talk to? It was frustrating.”

But this wasn’t a knock on Harden according to Rivers. The seventh-year guard simply suggested he was following orders.

“He’s (Harden) doing exactly what they’re telling him to do,” Rivers said. “…If you told James ‘yo I’m open pass the ball,’ James would be like ‘I got you.’ But the way we play is for him to do the things he does.”

Harden led the NBA in scoring this season, averaging 36.1 points. But the Rockets’ season ended after the two-time defending champion Warriors eliminated them in the second round of the playoffs.

Houston’s coach Mike D’Antoni has received some heat in recent weeks due to the team’s postseason failures and dedication to maximizing Harden’s touches. However, Rivers insists players love his analytics-centered basketball that emphasizes layups and 3-pointers.

“From a player’s perspective, everybody’s dream is to play for Mike,” Rivers said. “Because there’s no wrong shot. Mike literally lets you do whatever you want.”

Rivers signed a one-year deal with Houston during 2018-19 and is entering unrestricted free agency this summer. So there’s no guarantee he’ll return to the team for a second stint.

The Rockets have consistently been among the top teams in the Western Conference, but they haven’t gotten over the hump to reach the NBA Finals. They might have to change something to accomplish that feat.