Serena Winters

New Sixer Josh Richardson thinks he's a perfect fit for 'tough and gritty' city of Philadelphia

New Sixer Josh Richardson thinks he's a perfect fit for 'tough and gritty' city of Philadelphia

When you talk to Josh Richardson, it almost feels like he’s lived in Philadelphia for years, and it’s not just because he’s already embraced cheesesteaks and Philly sports fans — though it certainly helps. His face actually lights up when talking about how his hard-nosed defensive style of play is the perfect fit in this town.

“It’s like slipping into a pair of shoes that’s my exact size," Richardson said in an interview Friday. "It’s like a perfect fit. Philly is tough and gritty, I play tough and gritty. Philly likes defense, I like defense.”

And both Richardson and the Sixers are prepared to take a step up in their journey.

“I have high expectations for this next year and I hope we can meet those," he said.

Richardson’s experiences playing against the Sixers a member of the Miami Heat for the past four years make him even more confident about the potential of this team.

“Once we gel, I think we are going to be terrifying, honestly," he said.

He was up close and personal with Ben Simmons, who guarded him in the playoff series between the Sixers and Heat in 2018. 

“On the defensive end, Ben guarded me in the playoffs, and buckets were not very easy," Richardson said. "I know what he can do. Jo is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and he’s vocal, he plays. He’s where he’s supposed to be at all times.

“Al (Horford) is just super solid, doesn’t make mistakes and Tobias (Harris) is a solid defender on the wing. Mike (Scott) coming off the bench, James (Ennis III) and those guys coming in. It’s like just waves, and I think we can overwhelm people with that.”

Speaking of Harris, it certainly helps that he a connection with Richardson that dates back to their University of Tennessee roots.

In 2011, Harris left UT for the NBA Draft around the same time Richardson joined the Volunteers program, but since the NBA was in a lockout, Harris went back to Tennessee. It was there that Harris took notice of the amount of work Richardson put in.

“I remember seeing him in the gym and seeing how hungry he was," Harris said. "He wasn’t a five-star recruit or whatnot but he was always in there working and one of the coaches came to me like, ‘That kid Josh Richardson is going to be a pro,'” Harris said.

Harris actually took Richardson and one of his friends out to dinner.

“I was 17 years old, and just left home and so I didn’t really know anything,” Richardson remembered. “He took me out to dinner and talked to me about how to approach basketball, how to approach college, handle myself in life and I always appreciated that.”

“That’s why he’s in the NBA now,” Harris joked.

Plenty more dinners in the future for these two.

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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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Strong basketball bloodline runs through Sixers' second-round pick Marial Shayok

Strong basketball bloodline runs through Sixers' second-round pick Marial Shayok

For Marial Shayok, basketball is in his blood. His 6-foot-9 father, Makor, was a fierce rebounder at Dayton University before playing overseas. His older sister Yar, who is 6-1, carried on the tradition with a solid career at the University of Detroit Mercy before playing overseas herself. His older brother Shayok, who also stands 6-9, played at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“I was born into it,” Shayok said to NBC Sports Philadelphia Friday. “Even the neighborhood that I was raised in was a basketball neighborhood, with the rise of Vince Carter when I was a young kid, and having a bunch of stars in the NBA really emerge, like rockstars. So basketball was always the main thing in my life and the dream.”

Marial is now the first Shayok, and Ottawa native, to reach the NBA.

“I was able to be the first one out of my family, out of my city of Ottawa, to be drafted to the NBA and I’m so happy and grateful to be in this position,” Shayok said.

“Everyone (in my family) had a part in this accomplishment and so we were all obviously very emotional.”

One of the oldest players in the draft at 23 years old, Shayok knew there were no guarantees on draft night. Shayok had worked out for the Sixers early in the draft process, but he had also worked out with 14 other teams, in addition to showcasing his skills at the Portsmouth Invitational, Combine and G-League Elite camp.

He knew he had a solid season as a redshirt senior at Iowa State, as the only player nationally to average 18.5 points while shooting at least 49 percent from the field, 38 percent behind the arc, and 87 percent at the free throw line.

But, he also knew his offensive abilities weren’t on display for the first three years of his collegiate career at the University of Virginia.

“Just trying to stay positive,” Shayock said about the uncertainty on draft night. “I think I did pretty well in the draft process. … and I really just left it in God’s hands, kept my faith and I’m just glad and grateful that I’m here.”

Sixers general manager Elton Brand is glad, too.

“We studied him for awhile,” Brand said Thursday night after the draft concluded. “Started for three years at Virginia, where he was more of a defensive player and then he transferred and became an offensive player, averaging over 18 points per game, great three-point shooter. Tough, gritty. Young talent and he can play.”

The Sixers have already made their impression on Shayock.

“The organization is obviously one of the best in the league, one of the best teams in the league with the talent they have, with two of the biggest stars in the NBA," he said. "Me, being the player that I am, hopefully I can just come in and be confident and help win games.

“It’s surreal, a dream come true, still hard to believe. I don’t even think it’s sunk in yet. But it’s reality and I’m just definitely grateful and glad that I’m here.”

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