In their newfound quest to collect all past NBA knowledge, the Philadelphia 76ers have ventured outside Jerry Colangelo’s Duke Rolodex (by the way, I like to imagine the 76-year-old Colangelo still uses a Rolodex), having former Michigan State star Jason Richardson visit with the team the past few days. With Elton Brand signed to the roster and guys like Shane Battier and Richardson spending time with the team, the Sixers are certainly making good on Colangelo’s mandate to have more veterans around to spend time with the young roster.
Like Battier, J-Rich will not be joining the organization in any capacity, but even just having him stop by for a few days is a good morale boost for the club in the midst of another tough stretch of losses.
Richardson, of course, spent his last three years in the NBA as a member of the Sixers before retiring this past fall. The last vestigial part of the ill-fated Andrew Bynum trade, J-Rich missed the entire 2013-14 season following major knee surgery, and there was a long stretch where many Sixers fans legitimately forgot he was on the team.
However, his improbable return to the court for 19 games last season was an inspiring aspect of a mostly lost campaign for Philadelphia. Richardson’s turn-back-the-clock 29-point performance in an overtime loss to the Thunder remains one of the most fun moments for the Sixers in the “Process era” (which maybe speaks to the fact that Sixers fans badly need some more fun moments).
Brett Brown spoke to Sixers.com reporter Brian Seltzer and others about what an outstanding role model Richardson is for his young players:
“For me, he means something to this program. It’s still, to this day, for me, one of the greatest examples of perseverance and competitiveness and love of the game that I have ever witnessed. For him to have earned the volume of money he has earned, and still find a way to competitively get back in with a team that wasn’t going to any playoffs. But you’d see him at 7:30, 6:30 in the morning, way before any of the guys came in, just drenched in sweat, and then see him burst onto the scene and have great games. He’s fantastic for me to have around these guys.”
Whether it was through the hard work he put into his rehab, or just having the good humor to play along when his teammates gave him adult diapers for his 34th birthday last season, Richardson was definitely a shining example of the veteran leadership critics say the Sixers lacked at the beginning of this year.
As Brett Brown mentioned when the team signed Brand, guys often take advice differently coming from somebody they view more as a peer than a member of the coaching staff. Hopefully, all these little pearls of wisdom players are picking up from the recent retirees coming through town will eventually start assisting on the final scoreboard. For now, we’re left to wonder which early-2000’s NBA star will be the next one to step through the Wells Fargo Center doors. Baron Davis anyone?