Richardson hopes to contribute with Sixers, one way or another

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76ers guards Jason Richardson and Michael Carter-Williams. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff Photographer)

IF JASON RICHARDSON had not injured his knee during the 2012-13 NBA season, I likely would not be writing about him.

Of all the players on the Sixers' roster when general manager Sam Hinkie was hired with the task of rebuilding this franchise, Richardson would have been near the top of the list of players to be shipped out of town.

It wouldn't have been anything personal. Richardson is a high-character veteran who has performed with class and quality during his long career.

Richardson, however, was the poster child for the thing Hinkie did not want to begin his tenure with - an aging veteran with big, guaranteed money who was going to be a part of rebuilding, but still had enough game left to gum up the plan for tanking.

But with Richardson, who has a career scoring average of 17.3 points, not healthy enough to play during 2013-14, not even someone with acumen for wheeling and dealing like Hinkie found a trading partner.

And since it would have made no business sense for Richardson, 33, to have not picked up the $6.6 million player option for the 2014-15 season, he started training camp with a Sixers organization that respects him and has nothing against him, but would prefer to be without him.

Muddling this dilemma is the fact Richardson is still not fully healthy and isn't expected to be game-ready until at least November.

"We'll see," Hinkie said about what Richardson's role with Sixers might be. "He'll definitely have a role as a voice on our team. He was helpful in that last year.

"He wasn't able to contribute for us on the floor, but contributed in lots of other ways. We thanked him for all he had done in that environment.

"I suspect he'll be able to pick that up, as well, but he's hopeful and we're hopeful that he will be able to do more. If he can play, that will be great and he can help us. Playing would also give him a bigger voice."

Playing also would at least present the possibility that Richardson could be traded during the season for a future asset.

With a modest expiring contract that would be half paid, Richardson, if he can regain some of the form he's displayed for most of his 12 NBA seasons, would be the ideal type of savvy veteran playoff teams always look for down the stretch drive.

That would seem like the ideal sequence for both parties, but, then again, it might not be in Richardson's mind.

"Honestly, when I think of myself as a competitor, I won't just chase a championship just to say I got a ring," Richardson said. "I don't want to go to a team just to sit on a bench. I want to be a part that contributes to something. I'd want to play and actually help a team win a championship. I don't want to be just a practice player. That's just the competitive side of me.

"If it's [with the Sixers], I can help these young guys become better players for their futures, I'd be satisfied with that."

Richardson said he feels as if he owes something to the Sixers and Philadelphia fans because he never really got to play for them.

He doesn't like the idea of simply being remembered as being part of the disastrous Andrew Bynum trade.

"The Sixers have been more than fair to me," he said. "Personally, I feel I haven't been fair to the organization. Sixer fans never really got to see me play.

"Yes, injuries happen, but I still feel like I should be doing more."

In theory, having Richardson in the rotation would be a valuable tool for Sixers coach Brett Brown and his "Baby Brigade" roster.

Coaches of massive rebuilding projects rarely find a veteran of Richardson's quality who says he would embrace the role of mentoring young players to a brighter future that he knows he won't be around to experience.

During a season of anticipated struggles, it would be some comfort to have Richardson running in the backcourt with second-year point guard Michael Carter-Williams, helping him grow his leadership and decision-making skills.

"[Carter-Williams] has more of a target on his back a little more," Richardson said. "He won rookie of the year. His name is out there.

"He's got to bring it every night, lead by example, first at practice and last to leave."

Richardson, who was the fifth overall pick in 2001 out of Michigan State, could give sound advice and direction to young swing guards such as Tony Wroten, K.J. McDaniels and Hollis Thompson.

The downside, of course, is that Richardson might actually make some plays that could win a few games and slightly hurt the chase for the maximum number of pingpong balls for the 2015 lottery, but the multiple benefits gained in overall team development would be worth that.

"That would mean more to me, as far as being a part of something, helping these young guys learn by being a player-slash-coach," Richardson said. "I'd be OK leaving my legacy like that.

"Some of these guys have chances to be an All-Star and some have chances to have long careers. If I can help them reach their potential, I'd be good knowing that."

 


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

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