NEW YORK – Brett Brown was dramatic even when the 76ers coach tried not to be in describing Josh Richardson’s role.

“I think he is the key to the whole thing,” Brown said Sunday. "How’s that for not being too dramatic? I do. I think he connects.

“I feel he connects things more than you all would feel given my seat and knowing the skill sets of everybody else more intimately maybe than others.”

Richardson is the least-heralded player in the starting lineup. Joel Embiid, Al Horford, and Ben Simmons have all been named All-Stars. Tobias Harris, the other starter, is a fringe All-Star who’s been the team’s most impressive player of late.

A 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Richardson is sort of the glue guy of the starting lineup. He can defend opposing teams’ point guards and small forwards. On offense, he occasionally plays some backup point guard. He’s also a better shooter than what Brown expected when the Sixers acquired him from the Miami Heat.

“He can space and he is a slasher, he is slippery, he is quick, he has got wiggle and there is something about him that is just different than the rest of the guys,” the coach said.

Richardson is also much smaller and in some ways more versatile than Embiid (7-2), Simmons (6-10), Horford (6-10), and Harris (6-9).

“The phrase I use the most is that he is a dot-connector. Like he connects all these things that makes us whole,” Brown said. “He is very, very important.”

Doncic reportedly out vs. Sixers

It looks like MVP candidate Luka Doncic will be sidelined when the Dallas Mavericks visit the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night.

The Mavs guard suffered a moderate right ankle sprain in Saturday night’s overtime loss to the Miami Heat. There are reports that he could return to the court shortly after Christmas.

Doncic is averaging 29.3 points, 8.9 assists, and 9.6 rebounds. The second-year player has eight triple-doubles this season. His most recent one was a 41-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist performance against the Detroit Pistons this past Thursday in Mexico City.