I had a long conversation with Jason Richardson on Tuesday. I talked to him on Thursday, but he said he needed time to get his head together. I’ll tell you what, he was shaken up by this trade, totally blindsided. We’ve talked about trade rumors involving him before, and in the past he’d acknowledged that he might be the odd man out. Still, this came as a total stunner. He was pretty broken up about leaving the Bay. He kept saying the fans deserved more and he wanted to give it to them.
You can read all about it in today’s Times. (http://www.contracostatimes.com/sports/ci_6293697) But here are some quotes and topics I didn’t get in:
*He said he wanted the Bobcats to re-sign Gerald Wallace, who is a free agent. Though they somewhat share positions, Richardson said he thinks Charlotte will be better if they lock down the SG and SF positions. That would mean Adam Morrison is coming off the bench. If Wallace signs elsewhere, I think Morrison starts at SF.
“I hope we get Gerald back,” Richardson said. “Two athletic guys from the wing who play hard, that’s going to be crazy.”
*Richardson loves the underdog role. And he heard everyone who said the Warriors did good by getting rid of him. He especially heard Stephen A. Smith, who, let’s just say, has an adversary from Saginaw, Mich. with his criticism of Charlotte in making the deal.
“All that is another opportunity to silence my critics. I’ve always been a critic buster,” Richardson said. “When they came into the league, they said I couldn’t shoot. I learned to shoot. Then they said I couldn’t play defense. I worked on my defense and learned to play defense. They said I couldn’t dribble. I improved my dribbling.”
*At first, he did not want to go to Charlotte. Seriously. After getting a taste of winning last season, he wanted to go to a contender. Chicago, Dallas, Orlando, San Antonio, Cleveland — any playoff team that needed a shooting guard. I don’t think Charlotte is that bad. They regularly have one of the worst records in the East, which is pretty bad. But they aren’t that far off. They have some nice young pieces. Richardson’s one gripe is that he didn’t want to start over and try to take a young team into the playoffs. He wanted to help a veteran team get go deeper into the playoffs. But the one saving grace to him, he said, was that he has some guys who are going to play with him. One of Richardson’s problems in the past was that some of his teammates didn’t play hard. He doesn’t expect to have that problem in Charlotte.
“I play hard just like the rest of them on both ends of the floor. My thing is do whatever it takes to get this team to the playoffs. This team is just a piece away. It can happen fast. They were only five games outside of the playoffs. They’re young, but they have some guys who can play. All they need is some leadership and experience. I hope I can bring both.”
*Another bright spot is that he has a much better chance of getting the All-Star nod out East. With the Warriors, he wasn’t going to beat out Baron for the last remaining guard spot behind Kobe, Nash, Tracy McGrady and Tony Parker. In the East, Dwyane Wade is the obvious starter. For the second two-guard spot, Richardson just has Vince Carter, Richard Hamilton, and now Ray Allen as his competition for the second two-guard spot. Vince and Rip made it this year because there was no one else to consider. If Richardson has a year like he did in 2005-06, he’s almost a lock.
“There’s a chance,” Richardson said. “There’s always a chance. With the West, it was always loaded with guards. It’s a tough conference. Not that the East is a pushover conference, but this is another opportunity for me to prove myself — again.”
Anyway, I certainly am going to miss JR, though I think it was a smart move by Mullin. J-Rich was my guy, as the other media members liked to say. I was the butt of so many of his practical jokes. He never got too big headed. He was always down to earth. He never shunned us, no matter how bad he played or the team played. He was there to talk to us, win or lose. Plus, you could always go to him and just chop it up about anything. You can’t do that with Baron, or most stars in the league.
I’ll certainly miss JR’s locker room presence. With J-Rich and Troy Murphy gone, the Warriors locker room just won’t be the same. Thankfully, we still have Stephen Jackson.