Austin Rivers to have cast come off Monday

Advocate staff photo by KAREN S. DOERR -- Lakers forward Metta World Peace guards Hornets guard Austin Rivers in December in the New Orleans Arena.
Advocate staff photo by KAREN S. DOERR -- Lakers forward Metta World Peace guards Hornets guard Austin Rivers in December in the New Orleans Arena.

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers, whose rookie season ended when his right hand was broken March 6 against the Lakers, said the cast will come off Monday.

Rivers said he is ready to participate in the team’s player development program this summer and begin working on his weaknesses.

“I plan to hit the ground running,” he said. “I’ll start rehab right away, and I’ll take two weeks to get my strength back where it was, lifting and running. Then, after that, I’ll get right into workouts.”

Rivers had begun to play better late in the season just before the hand was broken with 20 games remaining. He said he is focused on going into next season fully confident he has gotten better.

I just want to get better at finishing (in the lane) with either hand,” he said. “Next year, when I come back, I can get to the rim and go either way. That’s hard to stop.”

The other focus, he said, will be on continuing to develop as a point guard.

He played point and shooting guard last season, but said he played best at the point.

“That’s why I’m going to play a couple of games in the summer leagues,” he said. “I’m just excited to get some reps in at the point in workouts this summer.”

Other than that, it’s improving his strength and conditioning.

He made it clear he has his eyes on a starting position.

“Next year in training camp, I think is an equal opportunity for everybody,” he said. “We don’t have a LeBron James or some superstar. Every position’s open, and I’m just going to go in there and compete.”

Awards time

It’s playoff time in the NBA. That means it’s also awards time, as the league will announce its winners as the playoffs progress.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: It’s been known at least since February who would be selected MVP: James. The league’s MVP three times (2009, ’10 and ’12), James had his best season with averages of 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, a mind-boggling 56.5 shooting percentage percent and 40.6 percent on 3-point attempts.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Portland’s Damian Lillard got out early in the running for this award. Having played four years in college at Weber State, he was ready right away at point guard, averaging 19 points and 6.5 rebounds and 38.6 minutes.

New Orleans power forward Anthony Davis came on as the season progressed, but he missed 18 games missed because of injuries and coach Monty Williams was admittedly cautious with him.

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: New York’s J.R. Smith averaged a career-high 18.1 points, with 21.3 points and 5.9 rebounds since the All-Star break.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Eric Spoelstra changed the Heat to more of a small-ball team that is more effective on defense. And Vinny Del Negro led the Clippers to the first division championship in franchise history. However, the award may go to George Karl for the way he guided the Denver Nuggets to the third seed in the Western Conference.

Defensive Player of the YeaR: The Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah, who had all sides of defense covered — on the ball, shot-blocking, team defense and rebounding.

Most Improved Player: Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George George replaced star New Orleanian Danny Granger, who missed the season with a knee injury, and became a star, averaging 17.4 points, hit big 3-point shots, and proved to be excellent on defense.