Philadelphia 76ers guard Jason Richardson did not play in last night's 92-84 win over the Washington Wizards, the fifth straight game he missed due to knee inflammation. While that itself isn't particularly newsworthy, the fact that he spent his Wednesday flying to Colorado is. CSN Philly's John Finger has the details:
"Richardson will be departing for Vail, Colo. on Wednesday night to meet with renowned knee surgeon Dr. Richard Steadman for an examination of his ailing left knee.
Steadman is well known in basketball circles for performing microfracture surgery. He also works closely with the U.S. ski team and was inducted into the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame."
First off, is anybody else sick of reading about knee problems? Okay, that's what I thought. Just checking.
My first reaction is that in the short-term, Richardson's absence doesn't hurt the Sixers as much as most teams would after losing a regular starter. This is mostly due to the troubling development of Richardson not giving the Sixers much positive play recently. After a hot start where he was arguably the team's most pleasant surprise, the 32-year-old has largely struggled since.
With the veteran guard's role on this particular team, how he plays really depends on his ability to knock down shots. And after a sizzling hot November where he averaged 13.4 points and shot 47 percent from three-point range, Richardson has shot 26 percent since, on largely the same quality looks from behind the arc.
Long-term, Richardson's knees are worrisome. In fact I am not a doctor, but the increased synovial fluid that was drained out of his knee last week most likely comes from simply playing a lot of basketball. And remember that the two-time Slam Dunk champion has put a good deal of pressure on his knees during his 838 game NBA career. This could be a case where Richardson's athleticism is actually hurting him. Even at 32 years old, think about how much elevation he still gets on his jumper, and how much pressure he places on his knees every time he shoots the ball. It's definitely quite a bit more than say, Andre Miller.
The Sixers have to be patient with Richardson going forward because, assuming he exercises his player option in 2014-15, they will have to pay him just under $13 million over the next two seasons. On a team already with average at best depth on the wings, Doug Collins has kept Richardson at a fairly reasonable 28 minutes per game this season.
Maybe the key going forward will be to use Richardson as a spurt player who plays closer to 20 minutes a game than 30. Maybe he's at the point in his career where his most effective basketball will be played in a slightly limited role. With the Sixers presumable welcoming Andrew Bynum into the fold in the near future, finding a way to get Richardson back on track will be key for Collins. To make the best of what has been a rough season, the Sixers need their shooters locked in.