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Josh Richardson film review: What Sixers' shifty shooting guard brings to the table

Josh Richardson film review: What Sixers' shifty shooting guard brings to the table

At 6-foot-6, Josh Richardson will be the smallest player in the Sixers’ starting lineup.

Before he begins his first season in Philadelphia, let’s look at what he brings to the table:

Defense: A fluid athlete 

Richardson is excellent at tailing shooters like JJ Redick, moving fluidly and staying attached well on screens and dribble handoffs. 

The 26-year-old made an impressive transition from a quick, controlled close out on the play below to sliding with Redick on his drive to the rim and swatting the veteran’s shot. It’s a nice combination of defensive fundamentals and high-level athleticism. 

Defense is clearly a part of the game Richardson values. You have to love the hustle here to chase down Joel Embiid, gobbling up ground to force the steal.

There are, however, odd occasions when Richardson has lapses in effort or allows himself to fade from the picture. The sequence below was a poor one as the Tennessee product’s careless pass bled into him getting beat back door by Furkan Korkmaz.

Just about every player has moments like this, but the Sixers will hope Richardson is just a touch more consistently engaged and active now that he’s on a contender. 

Offense: A shifty shooter 

Richardson’s instincts for how and when to find space off the ball are strong. He made a savvy shift from slow jog to sharp sprint toward the ball on this play from Feb. 21. 

That shiftiness is one of his standout skills. Tobias Harris and Redick botched the Sixers’ defensive coverage on the play below, but note Richardson’s quick curl around Derrick Jones Jr.’s screen, and his burst to the basket before Redick is ready.  

Richardson could, in some ways, fill Redick’s offensive role as a constant mover and outside shooter. His three-point shooting is not at Redick’s level (35.7 percent from long range on 6.3 attempts per game last year) but, after snaking around screens, he has more options than Redick, who’s not much of a threat to do anything besides shoot from long distance.

If he was in Richardson’s spot, Redick would typically curl up from the baseline and around Kelly Olynyk at the left elbow extended on that play. For all his strengths, Redick is not a player who, like the Sixers’ new shooting guard, can dart into the middle of the paint and hit a fadeaway jumper.

Though capable of beating his man and penetrating, Richardson isn’t great at creating separation against bigger players or making plays through contact. Ben Simmons swallowed him up on this play.

It’s fortunate for Richardson and the Sixers that he’ll be the team’s smallest starter. Surrounded by bigger (and better) players than when he was with the Heat, Richardson should see more favorable matchups as opposing defenses have to dedicate size to his gargantuan teammates. 

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It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

Updated: Tuesday, 5:09 p.m.

We now have a diagnosis on Ben Simmons' injury. Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story). Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news.

Speaking before the Sixers' win Monday night over the Hawks, head coach Brett Brown was unsure how long the injury would sideline Simmons. The 23-year-old sustained the injury at practice Wednesday going up for a rebound, according to Brown, and irritated it in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game against the Bucks.

“I don’t know,” Brown said. “And it really is like how long is a piece of string — who knows? Who knows? … Whatever the time equals on days, games, period of time, we can talk more honestly as this thing shakes out.”

However, it sounded as if Brown was preparing for his two-time All-Star point guard to be out for a while. He framed the situation as one the Sixers can cope with if other players take advantage of the chance to play expanded roles.

There’s 25 games left. … It’s an eternity,” he said. “Just keep going back to the end game. What’s the bottom line? I’ll say it again — if you get their health and their spirit, it’s got a chance to equal form. … And it’s all about landing the plane. And so with 25 games left, we’ve taken a hit with Ben. 

"I do see it this way. I’m not spinning it. It’s an opportunity for us to learn and something will emerge. And we need something to emerge. It’s not like we were all saying, ‘Oh, here it is, it’s anointed.’ It wasn’t that. So, I think we’re going to learn something and find something. If this was six games out, I wouldn’t be telling you this story. When it’s 25 games out, it is, with all my heart, what I think. That’s what I said to the team, that’s what I really think and that’s what I’m going to try to pull off.

Who specifically will take over ball handling duties? Brown said it “will be done by committee” for the time being, and he named a few players who he expects to be in that mix. Monday night, the team started Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. 

“The candidates could be Raul Neto or [Furkan Korkmaz] or Alec Burks or J-Rich, Shake," he said. "So, you have capable people that aren’t traditional point guards but have the ability to get the ball up the floor. Then at that point, you’re probably going to have to be in something that has motion and continuity instead of just giving Chris Paul the ball and saying, ‘Go to work’ out of a pick-and-roll, as an example.”

Regardless of Brown’s attitude, the tangible impact of not having Simmons will clearly be significant. He leads the league in steals, has assisted on the most three-pointers and is a highly athletic, versatile and talented player.

The loss of all those attributes will no doubt be difficult to overcome.

“When there is a vacuum, as there is right now with Ben, something will happen,” Brown said. “Somebody will step up. I’m trying to see the world through those eyes, and I really do — it’s not even creative coach speak. I see it as an opportunity, and I think I need to see it that way.”

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Ben Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Simmons will undergo daily treatment. 

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports “there's little expectation that [Simmons would] be ready to return to lineup that soon,” and says “doctors are hopeful treatment can drive improvement, but Sixers are preparing to play without him." 

According to head coach Brett Brown, Simmons was first injured at the team’s practice last Wednesday. The 23-year-old All-Star missed the team’s first game after the All-Star break, a win Thursday over the Nets. 

“It was a play where he went up for a rebound and I looked over and he left the court, and went and got treatment,” Brown said Thursday. “And it has played out as it has played out. We don’t believe it’s anything too significant.”

Simmons sat out the Sixers’ game vs. the Nets on Thursday and played Saturday in Milwaukee. He appeared to be in discomfort after drawing a foul in the first quarter on the Bucks’ Brook Lopez. The 23-year-old stayed in the game to make 1 of 2 free throws, then exited when Matisse Thybulle committed a foul to create a stoppage of play and ensure Simmons could return to the locker room.

Ahead of the game against the Bucks, Simmons had averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds and a league-best 2.2 steals. He’d played 36.3 minutes per game, most on the Sixers and third-highest in the NBA ahead of Saturday’s games. 

Brown talked before the Sixers’ win Monday over the Hawks as if he was prepared for a long-term absence. He said the team would split up ball handling responsibilities by committee, with Shake Milton, Josh Richardson and Alec Burks among the possible candidates. Milton started on Monday. 

The 36-22 Sixers are fifth in the Eastern Conference and play the Cavaliers on Wednesday night in Cleveland. 

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