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Pacers Throttle Sixers, Let's Be Positive And Talk About Jason Richardson

The Sixers lost by 20 in a game that went out of control in the fourth quarter. Regardless, Jason Richardson played again and has looked surprisingly spry. We should recognize that.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

A March game where the 76ers score 74 points and lose by 20 doesn't need to be recapped in full. Right? I mean, some things happened, including a Robert Covington injury (addressed below) and Thomas Robinson playing like there's no tomorrow - with all the benefits and all the downsides - but I want to talk about Jason Richardson, because his comeback has been rather extraordinary.

If you're unaware, Richardson missed more than two calendar years of NBA time. He first suffered torn ligaments in his left knee, forcing him to miss the second half of 2012-13 - you know, that season with Doug Collins as the coach, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner as the franchise centerpieces, and Andrew Bynum and Nick Young co-starring in The Best Sideshow on Earth - and the entire 2013-14 season, or Tank City Version One. While rehabbing, he then suffered a stress fracture in his other leg. It was reasonable to suggest his NBA career might be over.

The season started. Players came and went. But on the roster remained Richardson, seen as a contract more than a player, someone rehabbing on the Sixers' dime. He'd shoot around for an hour before each game, working up a sweat, shooting from 30+ feet away in an attempt to regain his game legs while his teammates - most of them 10 or more years younger than he is - prepared for the game in the locker room.

And honestly, Richardson became a novelty more than anything serious for many Sixers fans, the readers and writers here very much included. "Oh yeah, J-Rich!", we'd say. "I forgot he was here!" "When do you think they'll buy him out?" We were more likely to comment on his conditioning, predictably behind for a 34-year-old coming off multiple leg injuries, than seriously consider his return.

Then whispers about a time frame began to surface. Late-January came up. Early February next. Maybe to be conservative, the Sixers waited until after the trade deadline, where a spot on the wings surfaced via the trade of K.J. McDaniels for Isaiah Canaan.

Upon his return, the former dunk contest champion played at least 18 minutes in each appearance and hit at least one three pointer. For someone that looked primed for retirement just months ago, J-Rich found the fountain of youth. He looks just like he did a couple of years ago, someone who has clearly aged since his athletic prime - and boy, was Richardson ever athletic in his prime - but functional in his athleticism and his ability to hit open shots.

In a small sample, Richardson is 11-27 from behind the three point line so far. And he plays hard and with his infectious smile, which you can see all the time. Professionals aren't always playing as if they enjoy the game, but especially this year he's given off that vibe. He happy to be playing again, but he's more than just a shell of himself. He can still play.

The coaches rave about his presence for the rest of the team. Veteran leadership, or setting an positive examples, is something that gets a bad rap from bloggers, as it's usually an overblown trope used to justify the presence of veterans who aren't as talented or valuable as their younger counterparts. But a vet who can product and set a positive example is a great person to have on a young team. Richardson has been that kind of player so far.

Richardson likely won't be here for long - his talents are best used on a contender at his age. Enjoy his comeback story here while he sticks around. He's earned it, and thinking about how far he's come might bring a smile to your face as well..

Game Notes:

1. Robert Covington left the game in the third quarter after falling on his shooting arm. Diagnosed with an elbow contusion for now, the good news is that the fall could have been worse. The fall occurred on a contested fast break layup where Covington landed in the photographer's area. No photographers were present, but he fell near some seats on his arm, which he clutched upon leaving the game.

2. Isaiah Canaan is missing something right now. Maybe he's not quite in prime shape? Maybe he's not comfortable running the team? Whatever it is, he's been soundly outplayed by Ish Smith. Ish started the third quarter and, like the MCW/Wroten comparisons earlier this year, Ish might be prospering due to his ability to make something out of nothing, whereas Canaan appears incapable of creating by himself.

3. Nerlens Noel shot 6-6 from the line and played well overall, especially on defense. I'm sure we'll talk more about his progress soon.

4. Roy Hibbert never fails to make me laugh. Even when he's not getting attacked by two-time former Sixer Malcolm Thomas, he just falls over all the time. He's like a man on two left stilts. It's a wonder he hasn't gotten significantly hurt while tumbling to the ground because he lost his balance. That he's an amazing NBA defender will never quite get through to me, even if half of his effectiveness comes from an organized team campaign to make "verticality" a term in the standard NBA vernacular.

5. Henry Sims received a DNP-CD tonight, his first as a Sixer. He had previously played in all 84 games he had been in a Sixers uniform for. Holy crap, Henry Sims has played 84 games for the Sixers. Jesus. That's the third most of any Sixer on the current roster. Hollis Thompson amazingly has the most, at 124. Tony Wroten is next with 102. Then Sims. In the immortal words of Woj, Good Lord.

6. The Sixers have a home game tomorrow against the struggling Raptors. Both teams could use a nice game, given the loss tonight for the Sixers and an embarrassing loss for Toronto in New York on Saturday.

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