It’s been an interesting first year in Philadelphia for Josh Richardson.
Acquired from the Heat in a sign-and-trade for the mercurial Jimmy Butler, Richardson was viewed as an important piece for the Sixers’ starting five.
As the shortest starter at 6-foot-6, it would be Richardson’s job to defend opposing point guards. As the closest thing to a traditional guard in the starting lineup, his unique skill set was viewed by Brett Brown at his annual luncheon before the season as the “mortar” to hold the unit together.
At times this season, we saw that vision. Richardson did well defensively to handle a variety of assignments, whether it was a shifty guard like Kemba Walker or big wing like Paul George. There were also stretches of the season where he helped carry the load when the offense looked clunky.
The only thing that’s seemed to hold Richardson back this season is health. The 26-year-old has missed 17 games because of injuries to both hamstrings, his hip and a concussion.
If anyone can find a silver lining in having the last few months off, it’s Richardson.
That’s definitely a good way to look at it — not just for me but for some of my teammates,” Richardson said on a video conference with reporters Monday. “Ben [Simmons] had his back where he was having issues and being able to give him a couple months to rest and to get back, it’s been great.
"For myself, I’ve just been trying to strengthen my legs, just make sure I’m not having any of those same issues, but going forward it’s just optimism right now. I think we’ll be able to give ourselves a good chance once we start rolling.
Aside from starting the season 5-0, it’s hard to remember too many times when the Sixers were “rolling” this season. They were a team with lofty goals that dealt with injuries, inconsistency and unprecedented road woes. All of those factors led to a disappointing 39-26 mark and the Sixers currently sitting as the East’s sixth seed.
Coming from a culture like Miami where team president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra run a tight ship, Richardson isn’t the type to sit idly by and just watch his team underperform. He spoke about a lack of accountability after an embarrassing blowout loss in Indiana. He led a team meeting just before the trade deadline when the team hit another swoon.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Richardson would hold himself accountable and give an honest assessment of his team.
I think the first half of the year was pretty good. I think it could’ve been a lot better, individually and as a team,” Richardson said. “Just going forward, I just need myself to keep playing defense the way I always do and just try to be consistent and vocal. I think our team needs to be a little bit more vocal going forward.
“I think [those] were some of our issues on the road throughout the season. Especially with new teams, it’s kind of different. And it’s kind of different restarting because we’ve been away for so long, we might have to do all that again, learn all that again. Just consistency I think will be a big thing for us going forward.
During the portions of the season when Richardson has been healthy, you see the potential he brings as a strong two-way player.
During the first 15 games of his season, Richardson averaged 16.6 points a game and shot 38.8 percent from three-point range. After missing six games in December, Richardson struggled in his next six games back, averaging 10.5 points and shooting just 30.8 percent from three.
That’s sort of been the ebb and flow of his entire season. He’ll have a good run and then suffer an injury.
But when he’s been healthy and in a groove, it’s not hard to see why Brown thought he was so important to the team all those months ago and why he could be an X-factor for the Sixers in Disney World.
I think it was good for us,” Richardson said about the time off, “just letting guys who were a little banged up get back to full health and even strengthen themselves past that. So getting Ben back, getting myself healthy, getting Joel [Embiid] all the way healthy, and he’s been running and he’s in good shape.
"I think that guys that took good advantage of this break will … feel the impact of that — it will help them a lot. I think our team did what we were supposed to do during the break and hopefully we see those results.
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