Finally recovered from a kneecap injury and a resulting injury to his foot, Jason Richardson was delighted to play in his first NBA game since Jan. 18, 2013 Friday.
âI'm super-excited, man,â the 34-year-old shooting guard said before the game. âI might have gotten four hours of sleep last night because I was so excited to get up and just realize that I am here.â
For reasons practical and inspirational, Brett Brown chose to include Richardson in the starting lineup. With that, there was an irony: On the day after the Sixers tried to move way forward in their program with frenzied trade-deadline activity, they turned to their most tenured player.
âI brought him into my office an hour ago and say, 'Jason, we're going to play you and I want to start you, how do you feel about that?'â Brown said. âAnd to look at him, you just get goosebumps. Because he is a man with a resume that he has still looking like a child playing his first game.
âFor us to introduce him and playing him again is an incredible message for all of us.â
Richardson has been with five organizations and is a 44-percent career shooter. To come back so late in his career for a team in a youth movement was considered among his longest shots of all.
âI'm a veteran,â he said. âSo I know not to force it too much. I just want to get out there, get warm, get involved in the game, add some energy out there and just play ball.â
Brown's plan was to limit Richardson to one four-minute shift per period.
âHe told me I was starting and I said, 'Seriously?'â Richardson said. âIt was his call. I didn't want to be unfair because I hadn't had the work in. But he said he would take care of that aspect of it and he wanted to start me.â
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Isaiah Canaan was in the Wells Fargo Center Friday, but he remained a passed physical away from starting for the Sixers at point guard.
âI am a competitor,â Canaan said. âI am not going to back down to anybody. I was born a winner and that's how I like to be. And I will go out there and leave it all out on the court and do whatever the coaches and my teammates ask of me and do whatever I can to help.â
Brown anticipates starting the second-year guard from Murray State Sunday in Orlando.
âThat kid can score the ball,â Brown said. âAnd he has a body like a Jameer Nelson. And he played with Robert Covington (in Houston last season). I asked Robert to tell me about him. He said, 'Coach, he competes.' And then you go look at what he does in a skill package, and he can shoot.â
In two seasons with the Rockets, Canaan shot 38.5 percent from three-point range.
âWe all know when we start playing with Joel (Embiid) and Nerlens (Noel) and some other players, we are going to have to sprinkle some perimeter players into the game,â Brown said. âThat's the game. You have to put the ball in the hole from the perimeter. And he can do that.â
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The Sixers' deal with Denver Thursday essentially yielded them a first-round draft choice in exchange for lifting the burden on the Nuggets to pay JaVale McGee for the rest of the season â¦ and $12 million next year, too.
For that, it was expected that McGee was just a moveable piece, likely to be bought out of his contract. That was not the case Friday when the 7-0 center showed up, climbed into uniform No. 1, declared himself ready to play and promised to hang around for a while.
âI don't want to get bought out,â the 27-year-old veteran said. âIt's not a positive thing. You don't get all of your money when you get bought out. So it doesn't make any sense for anybody, unless they are older and want to go to a contender or something like that. I'm not that old. I just want to play basketball.â
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Tim Frazier was signed to a second 10-day contract and started at the point Friday. He had played three games for the Sixers, starting twice and collecting 26 assists.
Last week, he started in the D-League All-Star Game.
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Not surprisingly, Brown endorsed Hinkie's decision to move Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels.
âI am going to miss those guys,â he said. âI appreciate the effort they put in. They gave A-plus effort. They were great teammates. And they showed tremendous improvement.
âIt's an example of a club making extremely difficult decisions and having the guts to make extremely difficult decisions in order to get to someplace special.â