Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
|2010-2011 regular season||Jason Richardson|
Since Tracy McGrady was traded to the Houston Rockets during the offseason in 2004, the Orlando Magic have gone through a plethora of shooting guards. In the Stan Van Gundy era, the Magic have started Keith Bogans, Mo Evans, Mickael Pietrus, Courtney Lee, Vince Carter, and Jason Richardson as the team’s primary shooting guard. That’s six shooting guards in four seasons, not to mention the times that J.J. Redick fills in as a starter every so often.
Entering this season, Carter was the guy.
However, to set the stage for Richardson’s arrival in December, it’s important to note what happened beforehand.
Carter’s first year with Orlando was full of ups and downs. It took Carter a few months to find his niche with the Magic and get acclimated playing alongside Dwight Howard. And Carter’s slump in January was one for the ages, in that it was a career-worst month for him. But through it all, Carter persevered and thanks in large part to his efficient playmaking abilities, Orlando surged to a 33-8 record in the second half of the regular season and swept the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the 2010 NBA Playoffs. However, things turned for the worse for Carter against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. After a solid performance in Game 1, Carter missed two free-throws with 31.9 seconds left in Game 2 that would have given the Magic a chance at tying the game against the Celtics. Instead, Orlando lost the first two games at home against Boston and Carter’s confidence the remainder of the series was visibly affected and it showed in his production.
Carter was brought in to be Orlando’s go-to scorer late in games, but he couldn’t do it when it mattered the most. The trend continued in Carter’s second season with the Magic, even though he was still performing efficiently on offense. Carter’s inability to get Orlando a basket when they needed it the most in the fourth quarter of games finally prompted general manager Otis Smith to pull the trigger and acquire Jason Richardson to replace him.
At the time of the trade
Not only was Richardson (29) far younger in age than Carter (34) at the time of the trade, he was out-producing him too while he was with the Phoenix Suns. There was a lot of hubbub surrounding Hedo Turkoglu‘s return to the Magic, given his inclusion in the Carter-Richardson swap as part of a seven-player deal. But many observers felt that Richardson was a more important piece for Orlando in the trade than Turkoglu, because he was a shot creator that elevated his game in the playoffs when the lights were at their brightest. In terms of go-to scorers, the Miami Heat had LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Boston Celtics had Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, the Chicago Bulls had Derrick Rose, and the assumption was that Richardson would be “that guy” for the Magic in crunch time.
And you know that?
Richardson delivered. At least, initially.
From mid-December to mid-January, Richardson was everything Orlando needed him to be. Richardson scored, did so efficiently, but more importantly, he came through in crunch time for the Magic time and again.
Richardson’s four-point play against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 19 comes to mind. The shot tied the score at 90 with 17 seconds left in regulation, and Orlando went on to win the game in overtime.
There are other instances in which Richardson rose to the occasion and hit shots in late-game situations when the Magic needed them. A perfect example was Richardson’s performance against the New Orleans Hornets, a week prior to his miraculous shot against the Sixers. With less than a minute left in the game and trailing by the score of 79-72, Richardson made two three-pointers that cut Orlando’s deficit to two points. From there, after Chris Paul missed one of two free-throws for the Hornets with 15 seconds left, which would have iced the game for them, Turkoglu made a game-tying three-pointer. The Magic would later lose in overtime but they wouldn’t have gotten that chance without Richardson making key buckets down the stretch.
That was the bright side of Richardson.
On the flipside, after Richardson’s month of strong play, he made a minimal impact for Orlando. Yes, Richardson would have a stretch of games where he was lights out from three-point range. However, take a look at Richardson’s game logs and you’ll notice he had a lot of sub 20-point games. And the thing is that Richardson was brought in primarily for his offense, not his defense.
If Richardson wasn’t scoring, which was the case against the Hawks in the postseason, then what was the point in him playing? It’s no coincidence that Richardson played less than 30 minutes in three of the five games he appeared in versus the Hawks (stepping on glass and getting stitches on his foot before Game 5 didn’t help either), given that he was getting killed defensively.
In short, Richardson was a failure with the Magic.
Playing at a slower pace — Richardson got a lot of his points in transition with the Suns this season — robbed him of extra possessions (his usage rate nosedived with Orlando) and not having the benefit of Steve Nash feeding him the basketball affected his production.