With the playoffs in mind, assessing Josh Richardson's value for Sixers

With the playoffs in mind, assessing Josh Richardson's value for Sixers

Josh Richardson’s game is not always pretty. He uncorks three-pointers with unorthodox, slightly sidewinding form, pushes through and around screens, makes life as challenging as he can for opposing stars. The 26-year-old plays with the kind of intensity and snarl that tends to attract Sixers fans.

He joined those fans for a brief moment Tuesday night. After driving past Kawhi Leonard for two of his 17 fourth-quarter points in the Sixers’ 110-103 win over the Clippers and drawing a foul, Richardson happily let his momentum carry him into the crowd and unleashed a scream.

Acquired by the Sixers this summer in the sign-and-trade that sent Jimmy Butler to the Heat, Richardson has been a key piece, though not a consistently available one. He’s already been affected by injuries to both hamstrings, his hip and his wrist. 

Richardson’s statistics aren’t sparkling. Compared to last season, he’s shot worse from three-point range on lower volume (33.9 percent), turned it over more (2.1 times per game) and assisted less (3.2 per game). He does not grade out well in stats such as value over replacement player and player efficiency rating

To Brett Brown, though, Richardson’s value has been most evident during his absences. 

It’s the same old story we talk about — you really don’t know what you have until you don’t have it. And so we didn’t have him for a period of time, we didn’t have Joel for a period of time. ... You feel the sting of not having that type of player where, as an example, you give J-Rich the ball and now you can use Ben Simmons in a multi-purposed way, not just with the ball. And it’s easy for us all to say, ‘Oh, that’s a great idea.’ The starting point is you’ve gotta have somebody that can run a pick-and-roll, and he can do that.

“And really, our team isn’t equipped for that type of action, I don’t believe, unless you just have somebody that’s really sure with the ball and can run a pick-and-roll, like Alec Burks, like J-Rich — and [Furkan Korkmaz is] growing. And I think that him being a leader and coming to life has a lot to do with some of those other things.

Richardson has run more pick-and-rolls this season than any Sixer and is the only player on the team above league average in pick-and-roll efficiency. In the playoffs, it seems like the Sixers should be able to both play him alongside Simmons and use him as their backup point guard, as they did Tuesday night. 

His defensive versatility is another encouraging quality when considering the playoffs. In Richardson, Simmons and Matisse Thybulle, the Sixers have three multi-positional, disruptive perimeter defenders.

“He's a big part of what we do, especially on the defensive end,” Al Horford said. “Him being able to guard perimeter guys, and he did a great job on Paul George tonight, got on [Landry] Shamet in the fourth when we needed him to. So, it just goes to show how much he brings to us.”

The private discussions among players about uncomfortable topics and the public questions about accountability are also, of course, part of what Richardson has added. Those off-court elements can’t be measured, and it’s equally difficult to know exactly how much more Richardson allows Simmons to do or how important he is as a stylistic complement.

He is obviously not close to the best or most important player on this team, but it is notable — and understandable — that his teammates and head coach are very glad he’s healthy again. 

“We’ve got a great team top to bottom, first of all, so it’s not like I was really worried about what they were missing without me or what I could bring,” he said Tuesday. “I was just really trying to be a vocal presence on the bench for the guys. We had some young guys that were playing, and trying to keep them in positive spirits, because it’s not easy being thrown into a situation like that in a tough league — and they had a tough stretch of games. 

“Now that I’m back, I think having another ball handler out there, playing pick-and-roll with [Joel], getting him good looks. Just being another attacker for us.”

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Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

AP Images/David Zalubowski

Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

If you’d like in-depth, entertaining insight into some of the great players and moments in Philadelphia basketball history, Jim Lynam is the right person to talk to.

Now an analyst with NBC Sports Philadelphia, Lynam played and coached at St. Joe’s, served as a head coach, assistant coach and general manager throughout the years with the Sixers, and has developed close relationships with a slew of Hall of Famers. He joined Paul Hudrick and Danny Pommells on the latest Sixers Talk podcast and had plenty of stories to tell about Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Maurice Cheeks and Julius Erving.

Lynam's first experience with the late Malone was in 1985, when he joined the Sixers as an assistant coach after a stint with the Clippers. 

Moses, in my mind, was going through the motions,” Lynam said on the podcast. "And I personally was concerned, maybe after three or four days. … Is Moses all right? Is he hurt? Does he always start like this? They were almost, to a man, dismissive of my thoughts, from [head coach] Matty [Guokas] right up to Harold Katz, the owner. So, this went on for the entire preseason. Moses was beyond desperate. And I’m now really concerned. This guy was key to our team if we’re going to be legit. 

“Well, we open the season in New York against rookie Patrick Ewing, and all the fanfare. Moses gave Patrick Ewing 38 [points] and 24 [rebounds]. It was the first sweat that he broke. And he put Patrick Ewing in the basket probably about six times. So it was a real eye-opener for me.

The official box score says Malone had 35 points and 13 rebounds, but it must have felt like 38 and 24 to a coach getting his first exposure to Malone's Hall of Fame talent. 

“The public persona of Moses was really quite different than who the real guy was,” Lynam said. “He was really one of the best. He was genuine, no nonsense, come to do his work every day. A person of few words, yes, but when he spoke, all heads turned.”

Lynam has a vivid memory from that same year of an incident that showed him Erving’s character. He recalled a mob of fans swarming around Erving after a preseason game, eager for his autograph.

“As we’re walking down this corridor with people all over the place, a fan barges out with a pad and a pen, and obviously somewhat inebriated,” he said. “The first cop takes exception. … Doc’s trying to take care of the fan. ‘Sure, sure I’ll sign.’ And there’s this cop literally with a stick. To see Doc defuse that — he takes cares of the fan. ‘Fine, my man, ‘ he says, ‘but we’ve gotta go.’

"The fan’s ecstatic because he got the autograph. [Erving] turns to the cop, and I could see in the cop’s eyes, he’s irate. Puts his arm out to the cop and he kind of gives him a side embrace, and he says, ‘Thanks, my man, I appreciated that.’ And I went, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was like watching somebody walk on water. He defused what could’ve been a split skull and a near-riot in a matter of seconds, that’s how good he was.” 

Erving was the first of his kind, according to Lynam.

“Playing above the rim, playing in the stratosphere — he brought the game up there,” he said. “He was the first one, because he did it with a combination of spectacular and graceful.”

From 2001-2005, Lynam coached under Cheeks, who hired him to be an assistant on his staff with the Trail Blazers. One quality Lynam admired in Cheeks as a player was “the game was never too big for him.”

“That’s a huge compliment that I would pay a player because, for a lot of good players, the game can get too big,” he said. “Charles Barkley used to tell me, ‘Coach, you’ve gotta be careful who you set that last shot up for.’ Obviously he said it one night when I didn’t set it up for him. But Charles is right. Not everyone relishes having to take, or looks forward to taking, the shot that’s going to decide the game one way or the other. In that light, Cheeks was as good as there was."

You can listen to the full podcast below, which also includes a story from August of 1989 that involves Lynam frantically searching through the city of Philadelphia, looking to tell Cheeks he’d been traded.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

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Sixers smother Wizards in rare road win in NBA2K simulation

Sixers smother Wizards in rare road win in NBA2K simulation

If only the real Sixers were as good on the road as the NBA2K version.

The Sixers smothered the Wizards in a 64-50 win during an NBA 2K20 simulation Friday night.

A 17-0 run to start the fourth quarter pushed the Sixers’ lead from five to 22 and essentially sealed the victory.

Perhaps Washington’s mascot — who basically looks like Gonzo from the Muppets with a gut and a wizard hat on — rollerblading on the court at halftime affected the hardwood.

Here are observations from the win:

Bully ball defense

Bradley Beal got off to a scorching start, scoring all 11 of the Wizards’ first-quarter points. After that, it was tough sledding for Beal and the Wizards.

The star guard had just one point in the second and two in the third. By the time Beal hit a three with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Sixers had already gone on a 17-0 run and put the game away.

Embiid quiet again

For some reason, the Sixers don’t get the ball to their best player in this video game. It makes zero sense. Embiid did appear to be playing banged up. He kept flexing his shoulder and had a little medical symbol pop up next to him. Embiid scored one basket with 16.9 seconds left in the first half. That’s it. He did challenge a ton of shots at the rim.

On the other hand, Ian Mahinmi was the Wizards’ best player and played really well … which is something. Mahinmi, who has one of the worst contracts in the NBA, would not normally be the type of big who takes it to Embiid, but in this simulation, it was Mahinmi’s night.

Sixers would take this Harris and Horford in real life

Yet again, Horford was strong in this simulation. He was great on both ends, punishing rookie Rui Hachimura in the post offensively and defensively. Though the mighty Mahinmi did take it to Horford on a couple possessions. 

Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson were also big in this one. Harris, who was the 2K Player of the Game, posted a double-double while Richardson put the clamps down on Beal. Both players played a big part in the fourth-quarter run.

A night to forget for Neto

In a surprise move, virtual Brett Brown decided to go with seldom-used Raul Neto as his backup point guard. It did not go well. Neto missed his first four shots, which all seemed of the forced variety. Brown had seen enough and went to Richardson as his backup one.

Brown gave Neto a second chance in the second half and the veteran point guard rewarded him. Neto came up with a steal on former Sixer Ish Smith and finished on the other end in the third.

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