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Inside the Sixers: Veteran Richardson is a plus

The 76ers can increase the likelihood that they will have a successful future with one simple move: General manager Sam Hinkie must re-sign Jason Richardson to a one- or two-year deal.

Jason Richardson. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Jason Richardson. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

The 76ers can increase the likelihood that they will have a successful future with one simple move: General manager Sam Hinkie must re-sign Jason Richardson to a one- or two-year deal.

I'm not saying that the 34-year-old should retain his starting shooting-guard spot. Instead, the Sixers (14-49) need to give that to a draft pick or someone younger than Richardson to see if that person fits into their long-term plans.

But Richardson needs to stay.

Now that the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder is healthy again, his work ethic alone will make the Sixers a harder-working team.

"He comes with a big personality," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "He comes with a bounce, a fresh face and just a remarkable story of perseverance."

By now, most Sixers fans know Richardson's story.

He returned to the court on Feb. 20 for the first time in more than two years after suffering cartilage tear the size of a quarter on the right side of his left kneecap in January 2013.

Through seven games, he is averaging 11.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 90.9 percent of his foul shots in 25.9 minutes. His best performance was a 29-point effort in Wednesday's overtime road loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Richardson followed that up with a dud, missing all 10 of his shots and being held scoreless in Friday's loss to the Utah Jazz at Wells Fargo Center.

Since he doesn't play on back-to-back nights, the 14th-year veteran sat out Saturday's home victory over the shorthanded Atlanta Hawks.

But just getting onto the court again is kind of mind-boggling.

Richardson had graft surgery to implant cartilage into the hole in his kneecap in February 2013. Then in March 2014, he underwent microfracture surgery on the same knee. Then he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot four months ago while rehabilitating.

Before Richardson's return, the Sixers had no plans to bring him back after his contract expires at the end of the season.

But now, they are at least considering it. They need to do more than that.

Brown realizes that Richardson has a couple of more seasons in him.

"I don't see why not," the coach said. "Who knows what's going to happen when you go through a regular season? But to date, he's just such a survivor and committed. And he is especially is a professional with his body.

"It's an all-around good lesson for my young guys."

That's why the Sixers need to re-sign him.

Richardson is an extension of Brown in the locker room. His work ethic alone makes him a valued piece of the team. But the guidance he provides on such a young squad can't be duplicated.

Richardson can continue to provide on- and off-court guidance to teammates.

In the meantime, he can help extend his career while playing 15 or so minutes in a reserve role.

Richardson would remain a Sixer if the choice was his.

"I'm not that type of guy who is going to chase a championship," he said. "Who knows what's going to happen after this season. If I do go to a team that's a championship contender, a title contender, I want it to mean something, not just [as] a bench player or a practice player.

"I want to be out there getting meaningful minutes and playing."

If he's not getting meaningful minutes, then he might as well remain with the Sixers.

Richardson knows he can make a difference with the franchise.

"I would love to be back here with these young guys, they inspire me every day," Richardson said. "I'm almost like a player-coach, teaching these guys a lot of things, tricks that I know.

"To see their growth throughout the whole season this is something I hang my hat on and feel better about than just riding a team's bench and winning a championship."

Now, it's up to the Sixers to secure this worthy investment to their future.