A little over a year ago at this time, Jason Richardson was considered a valuable piece for this franchise. He came along as part of the trade constructed by GM Tony DiLeo and head coach Doug Collins that brought Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers. Bynum was the centerpiece, but Richardson gave them the veteran presence and the guard who could stretch the floor and make teams pay for double-teaming Bynum.
It sounded like a great plan, but then the nightmare began. The much-anticipated debut of Bynum kept getting pushed back until it never happened at all. Richardson lasted only 33 games and averaged a career low 10.5 points per game until it was discovered he needed knee surgery in February that will keep him out until January at the earliest.
It made sense at the time to take on Richardson’s three-year contract worth over $17 million, including a player option for over $6 million in 2014, because he was supposed to be a role player and it was going to allow them to build around Bynum. But now, new GM Sam Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown are stuck with the mistake made by the old regime and have no choice but to hold on to J-Rich.
His injury will provide opportunity for more playing time for Tony Wroten as well as an opportunity for either Khalif Wyatt or Vander Blue to make the team and possibly contribute during the first half of the season. This is good for Hinkie and company because they know Richardson isn’t part of the future as he is nearing retirement, so it would be more beneficial for a rebuilding team to see some young guys play.
But what about when Richardson returns? He’s clearly a player in decline, but he can provide veteran leadership whether he’s playing or not. This team is loaded with young cards, including first-round draft pick Michael Carter-Williams. He will be good to have around the locker room from the prospective of a mentor, and it is always good to have a veteran presence on the court if available.
I’m not sure of J-Rich will actually see the court this year, but if he does, I will be rooting for him to recover fully from this devastating injury.