When the Philadelphia 76ers took their team picture last month, Jason Richardson was nowhere to be found.
Of course, very few people noticed and/or cared because Andrew Bynum - both hilariously and appropriately - also happened to be a no-show for the aforementioned photo session.
Despite both players' legitimate excuses for their absences (both were rehabbing their surgically-repaired knees), the picture day fiasco (henceforth known as the "Glamour Shots By Deb Incident") fits perfectly into the "Richardson as invisible man" narrative. Not only was the 32-year-old shooting guard largely ignored in the trade that bought Bynum to Philadelphia last August, his January knee injury was an afterthought in the midst of Bynum's cornrowed, bowling-for-dollars, cartilage-grown-in-Petri-dishes, flamenco-dancing hilarity.
Unlike Bynum however, Richardson played in actual NBA games last season. Yet save for an encouraging stretch early in the year, it was clear that we were witnessing the slow decline of a man whose athleticism was - once upon a time - literally jaw-dropping.
Richardson's mind may be willing, but his body is clearly weak. The 12-year veteran dealt with knee, chest and ankle injuries during his final season with the Orlando Magic, and he missed 49 games this past year with similar ailments.
We'll see glimpses of the old J-Rich going forward, but they'll only serve to remind us of what once was. The 360 dunk against the Milwaukee Bucks in November may ultimately be Richardson's finest moment in a Sixers' uniform, but even the optimists among us believe that similar feats are sure to be fewer and farther between.
The 33 games that Richardson did appear in this past season isn't a huge sample size to draw from, but it still paints a sobering picture of what to expect in the future. When he wasn't stepping on cameramen, Richardson shot a career-low 40.2 percent from the field, and he knocked down just 34.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
To his credit, Richardson did manage to earn the coveted "Ace of Spades" Award three times last season. And while he grabbed rebounds at a fairly decent clip in 2012-13 given his position - Richardson finished with a Defensive Rebound Percentage of 13.4 - the knee injury that he suffered in January will rob him of a fair amount of his already fading explosiveness going forward.
In a perfect world, we'd be able to bottle up the J-Rich we saw at the beginning of last season. Richardson averaged 13.4 PPG in November while shooting nearly 47 percent from three-point range. He rarely strayed from his role as the Sixers' designated spot-up shooter, and served a fine complement to the emerging Jrue Holiday.
Sadly, that may have been the last shining moment for Richardson prior to his denouement. The above-mentioned knee surgery will keep him out at least until late January, and even when he returns to the lineup, expecting him to play more than 15-20 minutes per night may be unreasonable at this point.
But barring a major setback, J-Rich will (and should) be back in a Sixers' uniform, primarily because buying him out simply doesn't make sense.
In a world without consequences and repercussions, Richardson would have received a firm handshake thanking him for services rendered shortly after his exit interview last month. However, the NBA has certain rules and regulations that teams must adhere to, and since his contract was signed under the previous collective bargaining agreement, the Sixers would be on the hook for the full note salary cap-wise if they let him walk ($6.2 million in 2013-14 plus a $6.6 million player option in 2014-15). So, for better or worse, the Sixers are married to Richardson for at least one more year.
And while the two parties aren't staying together just for the kids, the youth of the team will be the ones who should benefit the most from Richardson's presence. For what it's worth (and it's worth something) Richardson has twice as much experience as every other player under contract next season with the exception of Kwame Brown. And as we learned from the @Sixers Twitter account back in March, you "can't put a price on veteraness."
Actually, you can put a price on it, and $6.2 million is a big, lottery-sized check to write for veteran savvy alone. Hopefully, Richardson can serve as a solid rotation player upon his return, and maybe even impart some of the wisdom that he's picked up over the past dozen years in the interim.
If nothing else, the man still owes the 76ers a picture.