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In appreciation of Josh Richardson, who sparks joy

The veteran guard has proven to be far more than salary filler in the midseason deal that sent Derrick White to Boston in exchange for future picks.

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

As far as 34-win seasons go, you could do worse than the 2021-22 Spurs’ run, which carries over into the quasi-postseason with likely top-10 lottery odds as a kicker. One of its many pleasant developments has been the midseason arrival of Josh Richardson, the 28-year-old swingman who most of us knew as a standout in Miami who for reasons unknown didn’t quite stick in his next three stops.

Maybe it was that second detail that muted expectations, maybe it was the emotional reckoning with Derrick White’s departure — either way, few would’ve predicted what Richardson’s delivered statistically or otherwise. Those numbers as a Spur have been mostly good or great, whether it’s raw averages (roughly 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a steal) or net rating (+6.1), where he’s paced all rotation players. He’s been shockingly proficient from deep (over 43% on over 4 attempts), creative off the dribble, and extremely active on the defensive end (2nd on the team in deflections per game).

Production is great, but what’s made Richardson a joy to watch has been the energy that’s come with it from day one which, for him, was Game 60 of the regular season. Despite Gregg Popovich noting Richardson’s unfamiliarity with the plays the team is routinely running, he’s suited the team like a Fiesta-colored suit, making up for that lack of corporate knowledge with effort, veteran savvy and an infectious ebullience. Part of that impact was highlighted in Tom Orsborn’s terrific piece on Richardson and Josh Primo, which goes into the former’s embracing a role as the team’s “Young OG” and taking the rookie under his wing.

“He’s helped me a whole lot just in terms of staying confident and just trusting in what I have been working on, trusting in what the team knows I can do,” Primo said. “He pours confidence into me and gives me pointers on where I can be more effective.”

Richardson’s contract is guaranteed through 2023, which may leave the front office weighing whether to run it back with him next year or capitalize on his likely-elevated market value among contenders who could use the extra epoxy and backcourt punch in exchange for a future-facing piece. Just don’t let the speculation detract from the welcome surprise he continues to be as a Spur.

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