He is only the fourth leading scorer and had missed the previous six games before returning on Friday, but Josh Richardson has emerged as one of the main leaders on a 76ers team in dire need of leadership.

Earlier this season, after a New Year’s Eve 115-97 loss at Indiana, Richardson said he didn’t feel there was enough accountability in the locker room.

“I think that we got some new guys, who don’t want to step on toes, including myself," he said that day. "I feel like we kind of go play and don’t compete as much.”

That was quite a statement that Richardson didn’t back off of. He didn’t mind stepping on toes, including his own.

Fast forward to this past Wednesday, where Richardson was the leader of a players-only meeting that the Sixers had, a slumping team looking to turn things around.

The meeting didn’t produce an immediate positive result, with the Sixers losing 112-101 at Milwaukee.

They talked about how they showed a better effort against the Bucks, who own the NBA’s top record. And while moral victories aren’t worth a lot in the NBA, the Sixers had played so poorly in their previous three road losses, being outscored by 62 points, that it was at least a step in the right direction.

Then the Sixers snapped their four-game losing streak with Friday’s 119-107 win over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies. The Sixers (32-21) resume action on Sunday when they host the Chicago Bulls.

Is it a coincidence that Richardson returned to the lineup and the Sixers won on Friday? Richardson had been out the previous six games with left hamstring tightness.

Actually he didn’t have a big game against Memphis, scoring just four points in 14 minutes and 57 seconds off the bench. Richardson, 26, who was on a minutes restriction, made his biggest contribution in Wednesday’s players-only meeting at the Sixers’ Camden practice facility.

Now in his fifth NBA season, Richardson was acquired over the summer in the sign and trade deal with the Miami Heat involving Jimmy Butler.

A second round draft pick in 2015 out of Tennessee, Richardson is averaging 14.7 points and is among the team’s best defensive players, although he has missed 14 games due to injuries.

Still, it hasn’t stopped him from getting the team together after they lost three road games, 127-117 at Atlanta, 116-95 at Boston and then the 137-106 debacle at Miami.

Even though he didn’t play in those games, Richardson felt it was necessary to get the team together.

“It’s a sign of growth from him that we have people, we care, we want to win, we want to do things the right way and Josh took great initiative,” said Al Horford, a five-time all-star now in his 13th season. "Our group, we are all in this together and we are just trying to figure this out.

Richardson said he felt the meeting was something that was definitely needed.

“We sat down and talked stuff out and it was good for us to get stuff out,” Richardson said after Friday’s win.

Richardson and the Sixers are still trying to find the answer to the Sixers' road struggles.
Rick Bowmer / AP
Richardson and the Sixers are still trying to find the answer to the Sixers' road struggles.

While a lot of what was discussed during the meeting wasn’t disclosed, one message from Richardson was that the Sixers had to be more vocal on the road.

They are 23-2 at home but just 9-19 on the road.

“I think we have to be more vocal (on the road),” Richardson said when explaining the disparity in the home and away records. “The best teams are talking out on the court and they are all one (team).”

It’s interesting how, on a team with three-time all-star center Joel Embiid and two-time all-star point guard Ben Simmons -- not to mention Horford and ninth-year veteran Tobias Harris -- that Richardson has emerged as a leader.

"Everybody has a different role on the team,' Richarson said. “Stepping up in the vocal leadership role may be my thing.”

It is certainly something he isn’t afraid to seize, somebody willing to step on some toes if it is for the greater benefit of the team.