It’s easy to forget that Jason Richardson is still an NBA player.
Since tearing the cartilage in his left knee back on January 18th 2013 the 34-year-old guard has made just 19 NBA appearances, averaging 9.1 points per game for the Philadelphia 76ers in that time.
After overcoming microfracture surgery and a layoff that lasted almost two years he made his return to the game in February of this year, convinced his career was far from over.
Of the injury Richardson said “It’s been an amazing experience and I’m enjoying it. I never lost the love [for the game] and that lets you know that I didn’t play for a paycheck. I played to play basketball. If I would have never played in an NBA game, I would have played in a YMCA somewhere. Just being around the game so long and how hard I work, and I came over so many obstacles to make it here, why stop now?”
And, as it turns out, Richardson has no intention of stopping now, as, according to Yahoo Sports, he’s about to sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Atlanta Hawks.
Although the exact parameters of the deal are yet to be revealed, the fact that it’s non-guaranteed suggests the Hawks are hoping to get a good look at him over the summer with an eye to offering him a spot on their roster ahead of the 2015-16 campaign.
Assuming that’s how things pan out, Richardson could be a nice addition for the Hawks, even if he doesn’t end up playing all that much.
It’ll most likely be his experience Atlanta’s looking to draw upon anyway, as the 13-year veteran has been around the league a few times, playing for five different teams (the Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Bobcats, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic and the 76ers) in the process.
Yet, even if he does make this one, playing time won’t be easy to come by and he’ll have to compete with the likes of Kyle Korver, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kent Bazemore for minutes.
That said, the fact that he chose Atlanta over the rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers (where there are still plenty of minutes up for grabs), suggests that J-Rich might be ready to embrace a different type of role, one that sees him playing limited minutes off the bench while serving predominantly as a mentor, say. And, right now, that’s something that could serve Atlanta well, as the star-less Hawks made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and will be keen to go a step further this year.
The move may also enable Richardson to compete for an NBA title again, something he got a shot at back in 2010 when the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns went all the way to the Western Conference Finals only to lose to the L.A. Lakers in six games.
He was supposed to get another opportunity when the Suns dealt him to the Orlando Magic later that year, but Dwight Howard and company were ousted by the Hawks (of all teams) after a fairly one-sided first round series that somehow lasted six games. Richardson and the Magic repeated the feat the following year, again losing in the first round to the Indiana Pacers; a five game series defeat that eventually signalled the end of an era in Orlando, as Howard was sent to the Lakers in a deal that also involved Richardson and ten other players.
Given all that’s befallen him since those heady days will seem like a distant memory.
And, yet, his one saving grace may be the fact that even back then the onset of age had forced him to abandon the outrageous athleticism that saw him crowned dunk champion in 2002 and 2003 in favour of being a jump shooter. Understandably his numbers weren’t great when he returned to Philadelphia last season (Richardson shot a career-low of .348 from the field and just .323 from deep – well below his career averages of .438 and .370), but there’s no doubt that with a little time spent in the gym this offseason he should be able to up those figures ahead of the new campaign.
If that is indeed the case this could be a match made in heaven, as the Hawks rely on a combination of ball and player movement to give their perimeter shooters open looks. If not, there should be plenty of teams around the league that are more than happy to take a punt on a hard working professional like Jason Richardson.
Which, given just how hard he’s had to work to reach this point, is the least he deserves.