Josh Richardson had a terrific self-appraisal on Tuesday when the Mavericks started individual workouts and the newcomer had his first Dallas interview session.
“I’m kind of a gap-filler,” the 6-5 Richardson said.
Which just happens to be one of the things the Mavericks have been lacking during the first two seasons of the Luka Dončić era.
Richardson is a slithery defensive-minded swingman who plays with grit, but doesn’t consider himself an instigator.
That said, he’s also not going to sit by and watch any of his teammates get bullied. All Maverick fans remember the Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell disrespecting Dončić in the playoffs in August.
Richardson, along with another import who has spent most of his career in the Eastern Conference, James Johnson, believes the Mavericks will have a sharper edge this season and be better prepared for antics like Harrell’s.
It starts with attitude, and Richardson is well-versed with a physical style of play.
“I definitely have seen differences,” Richardson said of the Eastern Conference vs. the West. “We always would kind of joke that the Western Conference was like a track meet every game – who can score the most.
“In the East, it was more like who can whip the other team’s (tail) more, kinda. It’s always like a bloodbath, especially when you catch a rivalry.
“I think that a few of us coming in this year can definitely bring an aspect of hard-nosed, physical basketball.”
To that, Dončić said: bring it on.
Interestingly, he and Richardson have known each other since Dončić was 16 and Richardson was just getting his NBA start with the Miami Heat, where he spent four years before playing with Philadelphia last season.
Richardson spends his offseasons training in Santa Barbara, Calif., and met Luka there.
“We met because he came out there to train for a summer,” Richardson said. “The first time we played, I came back to Miami and told some of my best friends: I just met this kid and he’s going to be the first pick in the draft.
“I still think he should have been. But he lived up to my expectations so far and more. We’ve been cool since.”
Said Dončić in his media conference call Tuesday: “I was still playing for Real Madrid. We were working out in the mornings and playing pick-up games in the afternoon. Since then, we’ve been keeping up with each other.”
That both players have an affinity for soccer hasn’t hurt, either.
Now, they likely will be in the starting backcourt together.
Richardson said he’s looking forward to the opportunity. Having played with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in Philadelphia last season, he knows the advantages of playing next to a superstar.
“From the outside looking in, the first thing you see is Luka,” Richardson said when asked about his thoughts on the Mavericks before the trade that brought him to Dallas and sent Seth Curry to the Sixers. “He’s one of the best players in the NBA. He’s a great engine for this team. And the other thing is it looks like they like playing together and really play for each other. They can score with the best of them.
“The thing I can bring is toughness, I can bring leadership. And I can bring defense. I’m kind of a gap-filler. From night to night, I can fill in where I need to.”
And, he can take some pressure off Luka at the other end of the floor.
“I’m excited to play next to him because he’s one of the best playmakers in the NBA,” Richardson said. “The other team’s best guard, I’ll usually be picking up. He can get in where he fits on defense and handle what he needs to on offense.”
Richardson grew up watching Jimmy Butler play. They were similar size and Richardson tried to emulate parts of Butler’s game.
He said he was a big fan of Butler’s game and that it felt a little otherworldly that he actually was traded for Butler before last season when the Sixers sent the all-star swingman to the Heat.
Though he never played with Butler, he watched a lot and learned that playing with an edge is a good thing.
“A guy like me, I don’t really take well to my brothers being messed with, but I’m not an instigator of situations,” he said. “I’m not going to be out there trying to get in people’s faces and doing a lot of extra stuff.
“But I have no problem doing what needs to be done if people aren’t being treated right. And I feel like there’s a few other guys on this team that feel the same way.”
It’s that kind of attitude that should serve Richardson, and the Mavericks, very well this season.
“It’ll make a difference, for sure,” Dončić said. “We got some great pickups.”
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