Josh Richardson wants Sixers to be more vocal but sees 'silver lining' in break

Josh Richardson wants Sixers to be more vocal but sees 'silver lining' in break

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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NBA Rumors: Buddy Hield's comments should have Sixers fans intrigued

NBA Rumors: Buddy Hield's comments should have Sixers fans intrigued

The Sixers haven't even started the playoffs, but a potential offseason storyline is already bubbling up.

Kings guard Buddy Hield has been long tied to the Sixers as a potential trade target, from insider chatter to fan speculation, to his accidental (?) fueling of those rumors when he liked an Instagram post earlier this year with a hypothetical trade moving him to Philly.

So when the Kings' season ended Thursday, and Hield was asked if he's comfortable with his role off the bench in Sacramento heading into next season, his answer raised some eyebrows.

Including, I'd imagine, some in Philadelphia.

Here's what Hield had to say:

[Hield] provided a series of short answers during a Zoom session with reporters and offered a cryptic response when asked if he could be content with his role going into next season.

"Y'all know me," Hield said. "Y'all know how I talk. Y'all know how I feel. Y'all can read me well, so I'll let y'all answer that yourselves."

Pretty spicy. That doesn't sound like someone who wants to stay where he is!

Hield signed a four-year extension with Sacramento last October, but the Kings regressed in their first year under head coach Luke Walton, and The Athletic reported in February that Hield, unhappy with his role, might be eyeing a move elsewhere.

It doesn't sound like Hield's concerns about his role have changed much since then. If he's unhappy, he could theoretically ask for a trade - or Sacramento could pre-emptively try to get something for the still-young shooter.

I examined the potential fit back in April, including the hypothetical Hield-for-Horford deal from that fateful Instagram post:

In terms of contract length and salary hit, the Hield and Horford deals are strikingly similar, and Hield's game would be an instant improvement for the Sixers' offensive spacing: he's a two-guard who shoots a career 41.1 percent from deep, and can create his own shot. Plus, he's substantially younger than Horford.

Will the move happen? If the Kings deem their relationship with Hield unfixable, it's possible. Horford hasn't fit well in Philly, but he's still a savvy veteran with a good track record. And Hield would certainly check the boxes for the Sixers' front office.

Hield shot 39% from deep this year on 9.5 (!) three-point attempts per game, is a career 41% three-point shooter over 315 games, and would be a perfect match for the Sixers. 

We'll see.

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2020 NBA playoffs: Schedule for Sixers-Celtics series is set

2020 NBA playoffs: Schedule for Sixers-Celtics series is set

The Sixers’ second playoff series against the Celtics in three seasons is on the horizon, and we now know exactly when it will begin.

The series will kick off Monday at 6:30 p.m., the Sixers’ first postseason game since Kawhi Leonard’s indelible buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the second round on May 12, 2019. 

Below is the full schedule, with all times Eastern Standard Time:

Game 1: Monday, Aug. 17 — Sixers at Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 2: Wednesday, Aug. 19 — Sixers at Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 3: Friday, Aug. 21 — Sixers vs. Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 4: Sunday, Aug. 23 — Sixers vs. Celtics, 1 p.m. 
Game 5: Tuesday, Aug. 25 — Sixers at Celtics, TBD
Game 6: Thursday, Aug. 27 — Sixers vs. Celtics, TBD 
Game 7: Saturday, Aug. 29 — Sixers at Celtics, TBD

Of course, Games 5 through 7 will only be played if necessary, and there’s no such thing as a true home game when the teams are playing at Disney World during a pandemic. The Sixers do have PA announcer Matt Cord virtually handling starting lineup introductions, plus the Wendy’s Frosty Freeze-out and other trademarks of a usual home game. They were 29-2 at Wells Fargo Center this season before the NBA’s hiatus, the best home mark in the league. 

Led by All-Stars Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, Boston should be favored in this series against a Sixers team missing Ben Simmons. The 24-year-old had surgery Monday to remove a loose body from his left knee, leaving the Sixers reliant on Joel Embiid and complementary pieces like Josh Richardson and Al Horford. Tobias Harris, who has averaged 22.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in the Sixers’ seeding games, will also likely need to elevate his game. 

Embiid is listed as questionable because of left ankle soreness for the team’s final seeding game Friday night at 9 p.m. against the Rockets. He had a short night Wednesday vs. the Raptors after being hit on the right wrist and had negative X-rays on his hand.

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