The skinny on Josh Richardson from those that covered him

The skinny on Josh Richardson from those that covered him

How much do you really know about Josh Richardson? 

From his strengths and weaknesses to his potential fit and off-the-court hobbies, I caught up with those that covered him closely during his time with the Miami Heat, and there were several themes that stood out.

(*An asterisk denotes someone that’s covered Richardson, but requested anonymity.)

Good person

Above all else, every single person I talked to raved about what a great person the Sixers are getting in Richardson. The terms “great personality,” “nicest guy in the world,” “unbelievable guy,” were being doled out left and right.

“Josh is wide-eyed and everything is great to him. Just a good guy from [Oklahoma City] who is down to earth and is going to be everything you want in someone like that.”*

“There’s also a whimsical side to him, a silly side to him.”*

Two-way player

When you ask anyone about Richardson’s game, the first word that comes to mind is his defense. “He’s a great two-way player, who doesn’t defensively do it with the physicality that Jimmy (Butler) does it, but he does it with quickness, with steals, deflections, playing passing lanes, plus a very good plus wingspan …”*

One person told me that by, essentially, replacing Butler with Richardson, the Sixers haven’t lost anything defensively. “Great with steals, great team defender, and he probably still has a little bit in his ceiling to reach.”*

“Every time I did a story on Josh and I talked to people around the league, they mentioned him as one of the best two-way players in the league, just because he plays on both ends and he was a bargain on that contract,” Shandel Richardson of The Athletic said.

Fit in Miami

There was a very common theme that repeatedly surfaced regarding Richardson’s fit in Miami. According to multiple people who covered Richardson, the sentiment was that Richardson was, in essence, given the opportunity to be the alpha dog in Miami, but ‘it’s simply not a part of who Josh is.’*

“It was kind of unfortunate that he got thrust into a role this year, where he was kind of put as the go-to guy, and maybe he wasn’t ready for that role yet,” Shandel Richardson said. “People kind of looked down upon him about that. He’s still got a lot of room to grow, only 25 years old. I think he’s just a player that needs a little more time, that’s all.”

And that brings us to what you really want to know, his fit in Philly …

“Great fit.” “Perfect fit in Philly.” “He’s the kind of player who’s great for a team in a playoff race.” These were the kinds of phrases I heard over and over again.

Unlike in Miami, Richardson won’t be expected to be the leading scorer in Philadelphia.

“I think it’s a good fit, because Philly has other players that can score the ball, and he’s not going to go out and take 20-25 shots a game. Josh isn’t a guy that has to do that, but he felt like he was kind of pressing last year, because he was in that role,” Shandel Richardson explained. “You can slide Josh in and he can score off the ball and he’s a great defender. He fits in with those guys well and I think that’s why Philly went after him.”

This sentiment rang true with every person I contacted that covered Richardson.

 “I love the fit there for this reason: Josh Richardson was given a chance at the start of last season when Miami didn’t make the trade with Minnesota (for Butler) to be the alpha. And, by the end of the season, Dwayne Wade took that role because it’s simply not part of who Josh is. Josh Richardson is the perfect third or fourth wheel. I don’t know where he fits in with Tobias, but he’ll let Embiid get his, Simmons gets his, and then he’ll be the other guy willing to do any of the dirty work.”

“The Sixers are getting a player who is high effort, high energy, very good defender. His offensive game can be streaky, but when he’s on a roll, he’s on a roll. He can be a very effective mid-range and three-point shooter. I think he’s a perfect fit for the Sixers.” – Barry Jackson, Miami Herald

“I think he’s the kind of player who’s great for a team in a playoff race, because he’ll support you, play the two, play the three, and he’s played a bunch of point guard also. He played PG in his final year at Tennessee, so he certainly has that in him.”*

Areas to grow

Smarter plays (and specifically a propensity to dribble out of bounds) and better shot selection did come up quite bit as areas for improvement.

Bonus nuggets

He loves to DJ on the side, loves alternative rock music, grew up in a military household and still does charity work in Oklahoma.

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Criticism by analyst of Joel Embiid's opinion on NBA plan is well off the mark

Criticism by analyst of Joel Embiid's opinion on NBA plan is well off the mark

Joel Embiid on Tuesday gave a thoughtful and detailed explanation for why he initially “hated” the NBA’s plan to resume the season in Orlando and still does not believe it is safe enough.

Wednesday, Kendrick Perkins reacted to Embiid’s comments on ESPN’s “First Take,” and his stance was not as well-reasoned. 

In part, Perkins said, “To me, this is just an excuse. If they get knocked out, this is going to be an excuse because their superstar was halfway in. … Man, go down there and hoop. I ain’t trying to hear that, man. It’s a billion-dollar bubble.”

Perkins’ response evades the substance of Embiid’s remarks. Among Embiid’s primary points were that he is concerned about consequences the coronavirus might have for himself and his family, that basketball isn’t the only thing which should define him, and that he is skeptical other players will adhere to the NBA’s health and safety protocols intended to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure. (Embiid noted he doesn’t do much outside of basketball besides playing video games and will personally do everything necessary to mitigate risk.) What Perkins said addresses none of those issues.

Instead, he focused on the notion of Embiid somehow being weaker than other superstars who committed to resume play without publicly voicing any concerns. To express worry about doing one’s job in these circumstances — playing basketball, in Embiid’s case — does not suggest a lack of character or toughness. It is a logical sentiment, and there is nothing wrong with Embiid being candid on the subject. 

… If you told me that the current trend is that people are getting sick and a lot of people are dying,” Embiid said, “obviously you don’t know what's going to happen and you don’t want to be in a situation where you put your life at risk ... and all that stuff, just for what? The money and all that stuff. At the end of the day, basketball is not all that matters. I've got family, I've got myself to look out for. That's all I care about.

Coronavirus cases have risen sharply in Florida, to the extent that many hospitals in the state have maxed out their ICU capacity. Embiid, who’s donated $500,000 to coronavirus relief efforts, has every right to say he is “not a big fan” of playing in Orlando. 

Familiar cliches in sports about sacrifice for the sake of the team and adversity over obstacles do not apply to a pandemic. This is a different category from Embiid shifting how he plays to accommodate teammates, and a topic that should be approached seriously. 

Perkins is allowed to criticize Embiid, of course, but his viewpoint is lacking in empathy and perspective.

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What to make of Joel Embiid's answers to big on-court questions

What to make of Joel Embiid's answers to big on-court questions

Since March, Joel Embiid has played a little under 27 minutes of competitive basketball.

He was impressive in that time on the floor, recording 30 points and 11 rebounds vs. the Pistons on March 11 after a five-game absence with a left shoulder sprain.

However, the most notable part of Embiid’s conversation with reporters Tuesday did not have to do with on-court matters. He said that he “hated” the NBA’s plan to resume the season in Orlando and does not believe it is safe enough. As Embiid said, he is more than just a basketball player. It is certainly valid to be critical of the idea of playing in Orange County, where ICU beds are at full capacity in several hospitals because of a spike in coronavirus cases. 

Still, we’re obligated to discuss Embiid the player, a three-time All-Star starter. 

Embiid didn’t volunteer many specifics about his fitness but said on multiple occasions he “feels good.” Over the last week, Brett Brown and Josh Richardson have praised his conditioning.

“I don’t think my weight is an issue,” he said. “The only thing to always watch is my body fat, and I feel good. Like I said, I’ve been chilling. Just doing what I have to do.”

He acknowledged Tuesday he did not always play at full intensity this season. 

“During this year, there were a lot of times when I was not into the offense and I was just basically going through the same motions and all that,” he said. “But with the playoffs coming, I’ve just gotta be more assertive and just be that guy — just demand the ball and do what I do.”  

Though no major statistic that might signify aggression — usage rate, free throw rate, post-ups, three-point attempts per 36 minutes — dropped significantly this year for Embiid, he feels he’s capable of more. In 44 games, he’s averaged 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists, playing 30.2 minutes per game. Brown said last Wednesday he’d ideally like to have Embiid play 38 minutes a game in the postseason. 

I know what I’m capable of, and I know what my teammates think of me. I know I’m capable of carrying the team,” Embiid said. “It’s all about me being assertive. If I feel like I'm not getting the ball, I've just got to talk to them and do what I have to do, but at the end of the day, I should never be in a position to complain about not getting the ball, just because of who I am. 

“I believe I can carry the team. I believe that by being able to do that, I’ve just got to take matters into my own hands. … Obviously I need to be in positions where I feel comfortable, and I'm sure my teammates are going to help me.

Embiid’s partnership with Al Horford was a prominent storyline for the Sixers before the hiatus, mostly because it hasn’t worked as the Sixers hoped offensively. Among regular Sixers duos, the team has the worst offensive rating when that pair is on the floor together, and by a three-point margin

In Embiid’s mind, the pairing isn’t doomed to fail, though he thinks the players surrounding himself and Horford are an important factor. 

I don’t believe there is a problem,” he said. “It’s just a matter of everybody buying in and being able to play their role. The pairing with Al, I feel like it has been fine. At times it could be better but then again, everyone on the court has a job and with that type of pairing you need to have shooters around or you need to have people or guys ... wanting to take that shot, especially, when you’ve got two inside presences like me and Al. 

“He can post up, I can post up and then around, you’ve got to be able to have guys that are willing to shoot and that are going to shoot the ball. I think that's what needs to happen, but I don’t think there’s a problem. I think we're fine. I like him, great guy. We've got to keep on working together. … We are better suited for the playoffs. We’ve got about eight games to get back into it ... so I’m excited.

Horford and Embiid have not played together with a cast of willing and able shooters very often this season. The Sixers as a team are 22nd in three-pointers attempted (31.6) and 14th in three-point percentage (36.2 percent). The duo has shared the floor most often with Tobias Harris, who’s taken the most threes on the team, but the Sixers only have a 101.0 offensive rating when those three play together.  

Embiid seems to think an intuitive understanding of how to play the game — when to take open shots, how to accommodate each other, when to feed the dominant big man in the post — can override what we saw in the first 65 games.

More than anything, he trusts his own abilities when he’s determined to attack. 

“We didn’t get the chance to see it as much this year,” he said, “but you can go back and look at last year’s regular season and what I did, and that’s the mindset I need to have — and even better — if I really want to achieve that goal, which is to win the championship.”

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