In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Josh Richardson was asked questions about a wide range of topics. He gave thoughtful answers and discussed everything from continuing to speak up against racial injustice in Orlando to training at the team facility again, so here’s a selection of key takeaways.
The NBA’s return in Orlando
Richardson made it clear that he’s excited to play basketball again, but he isn’t excited to be in the Orlando bubble. He also believes keeping people’s attention on the movement against racial injustice is essential.
“I think that we need to keep the focus on what’s important, and that’s the social climate right now, and the inequalities that have been happening for African Americans for so long,” Richardson said. “And it needs to be spoken about. We’re going there to play basketball, we’re going to work, but at the same time we’re all thinking of ways that we can speak up and help.”
Richardson was also asked about his opinions on the pre-approved list of messages that players were given as options for the back of their jersey. Mike Scott didn’t hesitate to say he thought it was a “terrible” idea this week, and expressed his frustration that players weren’t even given a chance to voice their own ideas.
“I think that it came from a place of good intention… I think it’s tough to try to limit what people are feeling and how people can speak out to just a list of, like, 15 to 20 sayings,” Richardson explained. “You know, there’s a lot of different things that are being thought, a lot of different things that are wanting to be portrayed. And if it’s not in that list of words they gave us, it’s almost like it doesn’t count as much. So, I can see where [Scott] comes from.”
The Sixers’ participation in protests
The Sixers team is made up of so many people who use their platforms for good and make a difference off the court. Richardson spoke highly of his teammates when asked what it’s been like seeing some of them (such as Matisse Thybulle and Tobias Harris) taking part in protests against racial injustice in Philly.
“It’s great,” Richardson began. “Being able to see ‘Tisse, Tobias, EB [Elton Brand] and guys marching out there is awesome. There’s been protests everywhere and it’s important the way things are going right now. Awareness is starting to raise. The cameras catching a lot of stuff being put out are raising a lot of awareness, but that’s all you can ask for. For them to step up and do that and use their voices for that. I know it wasn’t easy at first, because there’s a lot of different views and opinions, but I’m excited for that and to be able to use our platform in Orlando as another way to raise awareness and speak up and say what needs to be said.”
Richardson didn’t want to reveal exactly how the Sixers are planning to speak up, but said to “keep your eyes peeled.”
Training and rehabbing
Hamstring and hip injuries contributed towards Richardson missing 17 games this season. During his time off and workouts in quarantine, he made it a priority to do whatever he could to help prevent more similar issues cropping out.
“I’ve just been trying to strengthen my legs, make sure I’m not having any of those same issues.”
Richardson also mentioned how beneficial the time off has been to some of his teammates. He emphasized the importance of the break to Ben Simmons in particular, as it’s allowed the team’s young star to recover from the nerve impingement in his lower back and return to 100 percent health.
After dealing with months of individual workouts without teammates, Richardson also said that he’s looking forward to training with the rest of the team again.
“We still all don’t get to work out together, but just to see someone else on the court [at the practice facility] is good for your spirits. I’m excited to see when everyone can get on and start playing.”
Even though everyone hasn’t been able to work out together, Richardson did say that’s he’s seen Joel Embiid quite a bit since getting back to Philly to train. “Embiid looks good and looks like he’s in good shape, so that’s encouraging.”
“Going forward it’s just optimism right now,” Richardson added when discussing the team’s approach for returning with good health. “I think we’ll be able to give ourselves a good chance once we get rolling.”
Richardson’s pick-and-roll play with Ben Simmons
To follow on from the piece I wrote a few days ago about Simmons’ play as a roll man, I asked Richardson about his increased pick-and-roll usage with Simmons this season and if he thinks it’s something the Sixers can keep going to more. Similarly to Simmons, Richardson’s approach was a positive one.
“I think that [pick-and-roll] was definitely a good look for us at points during the season, just being able to use [Simmons] as an athlete,” Richardson said. “He’s 6’10’ and he’s usually — probably always — the fastest person on the court. So if I can come off, there’s a lot of different looks for me and if the defense slips up or anything, he knows how to make them pay, whether it’s scoring or passing. So there’s a lot of different things that can come out of the play. And going forward I think we’ll hopefully be able to use it through our games.”
Ben Simmons had a great game against Houston (29 PTS, 13/20 FG, 13 REB, 11 AST, 3 STL, 4 BLK).— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) January 4, 2020
Quality defense as usual, aggressive attacking the rim and offensive glass, pushed the pace, and he worked really well as a screener/roller pic.twitter.com/Mda40XlQXs
Looking back at the season so far and where to improve
The Sixers were hurt by their inconsistency this season, thanks to spells of poor energy and ugly road performances.
They were a dominant force in Philly. Their 29-2 home record is the best in the league, while their home net rating (+10.3) is 2nd only to the Bucks. The Sixers were a different team on the road, though, going 10-24 and ranking 24th in net rating at -5.4. Richardson also had some ups and downs of his own with streaky spells of three-point shooting, ultimately finishing up at just 32.7 percent from deep.
Richardson said that while the first half of the year was “pretty good,” he felt it could have been a lot better, for both himself and the team as a whole.
“Going forward, I need myself to keep playing defense the way I always do and just try to be consistent and vocal,” Richardson said. “I think our team needs to be a little bit more vocal going forward, I think that was some of our issues when going on the road throughout the season. Especially with new teams it’s different, and it’s kind of different restarting again — because we’ve been away for so long we might have to do all that again. But just consistency will be a big thing for us going forward.”