Jason Richardson doesn’t know what will happen around 7:05 tonight, the moment he will be introduced as a Philadelphia 76ers starter at Amway Center.
After playing 109 regular-season games for the Orlando Magic, will the fans cheer him? Boo him? A little bit of both?
“I really don’t know what it’ll be like,” he said after the Sixers finished their shootaround earlier this afternoon.
“I know I played hard. That’s one thing: I can say that I played hard, even though I feel like I didn’t really get to show exactly what I could do because of the way the situation was, the offense was. I feel like I played hard no matter what. I didn’t complain and I did what it takes to help this team win.”
The Magic traded Richardson away Aug. 10 in the 12-player blockbuster deal that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. Because Richardson makes his offseason home in Denver, he hasn’t been in Orlando since last postseason ended.
Richardson is aware of the perception that, at 31 years old, some fans and analysts believe his offensive game has deteriorated sharply. Last season, he averaged career lows in points per game (11.6) and in field-goal percentage (40.8).
“I’m looking to show that I still could play basketball,” Richardson said.
“I think last year, just going through that year of uncertainty, standing in the corners, I think a lot of people feel like I’ve lost three steps instead of one. I know that I have lost a step, but I’m still capable of going out there and putting up big numbers and playing at a more consistent basis than I did last year. So I’m going out there to prove that I still could go out there and play at a high level.”
Richardson didn’t complain publicly last season about his role.
In 2010-11, he went from averaging 19.3 points per game on 47.0 percent shooting with the Phoenix Suns to averaging 13.9 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting the rest of the year after his trade to the Magic.
In Orlando, Howard clearly was the offense’s focal point.
“There’s not a problem with that, but I just feel like I could’ve been used a lot more than what I was used,” Richardson said. “But like I said, I’m a team player and I just did what the coach wanted me to do. That’s what he wanted me to do and I didn’t complain and went out there and did what I was capable to do with the minutes I had and the plays I had.”
Stan Van Gundy agrees with Richardson.
“I would say he’s probably right,” Van Gundy said by phone this afternoon. “We were in a situation where Dwight was our main guy, and we basically ran a lot of pick-and-rolls, and Jason ended up as our fourth option. I thought he played very well for us, but he didn’t get the number of opportunities he had previously in his career. But I was very, very happy with him. He’s a great team guy and a professional. I would think what he’s saying is probably right.
“I think personally he would’ve thrived more with us if he had been given more looks. I have great respect for Jason. Great respect. I think he’s one of the best professionals I’ve been around in my career.”
Sixers coach Doug Collins praised Richardson on Thursday, calling him “a great pro” and lauding him for a “tremendous work ethic.”
Richardson’s biggest disappointment with the Magic probably occurred during the 2011 playoffs. On the afternoon of Game 5 of the team’s first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, he was in bare feet at his home when he stepped on glass.
He received seven stitches on the bottom of his left foot. Even though he had pain in the foot, he still went on to play the next two games, scoring 17 points in the Magic’s Game 5 win in Orlando.
In all, however, he finished the series averaging 10.0 points per game on 33.3 percent shooting as the Magic were mired in a teamwide perimeter shooting slump and never quite seemed comfortable with the Hawks’ defensive scheme in which the Hawks mostly played Howard one-on-one and crowded the Magic’s 3-point shooters.
Richardson said the trade in August didn’t surprise him at all.
“I kind of figured I was a part of that deal,” Richardson said.
“No matter where Dwight was going, I know I was going somewhere else or I was going with him. But that’s a part of the business of basketball. I enjoyed my two years here. I played hard. I did what I was capable of doing. I’m looking for a great year here in Philadelphia.”
For Richardson, that year starts tonight — in the arena where he played two up-and-down seasons.
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, CT Now