Veteran guard Jason Richardson was given the night off last Wednesday in Toronto, receiving what could best be described as a healthy scratch.
Given that Richardson has suffered a pair of sprained ankles this season and was searching for consistency with his shot, coach Doug Collins figured a night off might serve well for the soon-to-be 32-year-old.
Not only is Richardson back in the starting lineup for the Sixers against the Rockets, but also Collins says he is going to try and get the veteran sharp-shooter some more minutes. Its time, Collins said, for Richardson to take on a bigger role both as a player and as a leader.
"I would like to start increasing his minutes a little bit. I talked to him about that Friday, Collins said. We really need him. We not only need his minutes, but we also need his voice and his leadership. He can really enhance Jrue (Holiday) and Thad (Young) as the three captains on our team and I think J-Rich feels good about that.
In 30 games headed into Saturdays tilt, Richardsons stats are down slightly from last season, across the board. Most troubling among those has been three-point shooting where Richardson ranks 12th all-time with 1,573 threes. However, after a strong start to the season where he buried 47 percent (30 for 64) of his three-pointers during November, Richardson has hit the skids.
Richardson made just 27 percent (17 for 62) of his three-pointers in December and is 3-for-12 from long range during the Sixers current five-game losing streak. When the Sixers dropped five straight in December, Richardson shot just 7 for 24 during that stretch.
Certainly the shots have been there for Richardson, they just havent been dropping. As a result, the Sixers have suffered in the win-loss column as well.
I want to get more from him as we move forward, and not just with playing time, Collins said.
But with a break of sorts serving as a refresher for Richardson, Collins is going to turn the veteran loose. The aim is to not only jump-start the struggling Sixers, but also to return Richardson into a valuable player for the future. Collins remembered the waning days of Hall-of-Famer Joe Dumars career when the Pistons were struggling and the veteran was seemingly just playing out the string.
Collins wants to rejuvenate Richardsons game before its too late.
I told him about when I went to Detroit, I had Lindsey Hunter, Grant Hill and Allan Houston and they were all very young players. And then we had Joe Dumars, who was a holdover from the 'Bad Boy' era and the team had gotten really bad, Collins said of his conversation with Richardson. Joe had gotten to the stage of his career where he was just playing it out. I went to talk to him about being a leader for the young guys putting his arm around the young guys and talk about being great and ending his career with dignity.
We lost Allan Houston the next year and Joe started and we won eight more games and he made the All-Star team. I dont want J-Richs career to end as a salary-cap throw-in for four or five different teams. I dont want him to be a guy who always gets traded because the money works. I want him to end his career with dignity. Hes a guy who plays hard every night, hes a winner and I love the way he plays the game.
Signed through the end of the 2014-15 season, Collins is going to give Richardson the chance to end his career the right way.
McHale takes notice
Before Saturdays game between the Sixers and the Rockets at the Wells Fargo Center, the coaches of both teams were asked about the potential All-Stars for the opposition. For Collins, the questions were about James Harden, a player the Sixers coach has known since his collegiate days at Arizona State.
So Kevin, would you?
Im in the Western Conference, so I dont get the chance, McHale said.
Nevertheless, McHale had nothing but compliments for Holiday.
Hes the heart and soul of their team, McHale said.
What makes Holiday so good, McHale said, is Holidays ability to keep his dribble and find shots either for himself or his teammates. And, McHale said, Hes young. There are questions about if hes a point guard or not, but hes going to keep his dribble alive and find shots.
If there is one thing McHale knows about from his days as with the Celtics, where he became one of the best low-post players in the history of the game, its finding shots.