KISSIMMEE, Fla.– Josh Richardson is the 76ers’ unheralded leader.
The shooting guard plays on a squad where All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons garner most of the headlines. Tobias Harris is recognized as the team’s off-the-court leader and third option on it. Meanwhile, 34-year-old Al Horford is known as the soft-spoken and wise veteran.
And recently, point guard Shake Milton has been bombarded with media attention.
Richardson, for the most part, has been flying under the radar during the Sixers training camp at Walt Disney World.
But lack of headlines or notoriety shouldn’t be perceived as an indicator of his importance.
“What he is, is just so steady,” coach Brett Brown said before Tuesday night’s scrimmage against the Dallas Mavericks at HP Field House in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
“He is steady as a person,” Brown added. “He is steady where you know what you are going to get out of him, defensively. When you are thinking about what value is he going to be for this team, go back to the Clippers game.”
On that Feb. 11 night, the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder scored 17 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Sixers to a 110-103 victory over the Clippers. That’s when he made 6 of 9 shots and all three of his three-pointers. He also finished with a game-best plus-24 and two blocks.
“I think the J-Rich gets sort of swept under the carpet as it relates to just the attention of the question,” Brown said. “But he does so much in my mind as it relates to the importance of what he does.
“Defensively, we get it. But it’s other things.”
Richardson’s leadership is notable, and he has an ability score at will when called upon.
On most nights, he is the glue guy. He routinely guards the opposing team’s point guard and his versatility impacts games.
He averaged 8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block while making 6 of 8 shots in the Sixers’ two scrimmages prior to Tuesday.
The Sixers played without Joel Embiid (right calf tightness), Glenn Robinson III (left hip pointer) and Raul Neto (lower back tightness) Tuesday, their third and final scrimmage. They’ll play the first of eight seeding games on Saturday against the Indiana Pacers at VISA Athletic Center.
Richardson’s best scrimmage was during Sunday’s 102-97 loss to the hometown Oklahoma City Thunder when he had 10 points, 3 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks in 23 minutes, 10 seconds.
The Sixers acquired him from the Miami Heat last July to be their shooting guard, backup point guard, and designated lock-down perimeter defender.
He missed 18 games with injuries before the NBA shutdown in March. His 13.8 points and 3.1 assists averages are the second-highest of his five-year career.
The 26-year-old also blossomed into one of the team’s vocal leaders.
Back on Dec. 31, the Sixers suffered a 115-97 setback to the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which marked their third consecutive loss since beating the NBA’s top-ranked Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas Day.
“I don’t think there’s enough accountability in our locker room right now, honestly,” he said at that time. “I think that we got some new guys who don’t want to step on toes, including myself. I feel like we kind of go play and don’t compete as much.”
But no one will question his worth ethic.
Richardson has continued to play hard while battling through injuries.
He was sidelined at various times with right and left hamstring tightness, hip flexor tightness and the concussion protocol.
The NBA shutdown gave him an opportunity to put those injuries in his rear-view mirror. And that might be a good thing for the Sixers.