A Requiem to Jason Richardson

Jason Richardson retired today.

Marcus Thompson II wrote Jason Richardson never stopped being a Warrior, a wonderful look a JRich, Warrior.

Tim Kawakami calls him the Lost Prince of We Believe. And adds more good insights into the character of JRich.

And that leads to my perspective.

The modern (21st-century) history of the Warriors can best be understood as an ongoing effort to replace Chris Webber.

Webber was obtained by the Warriors in a draft-day trade in 1993. In 1995, he was traded.

Back in the 1990s, power forward and center were the dominate positions in the NBA. The Warriors had basically never had a dominate power forward. They had not had a dominate center since 1974 (traded Nate Thurmond to the Bulls just before winning the championship with non-dominate Clifford Ray). From 1995 on, they searched relentlessly for dominate frontcourt players.

My own story reaches back to 1998, when Antawn Jamison was drafted  4th, and Vince Carter was drafted 5th. In a draft-day trade, the Warriors and Raptors swapped. Meanwhile, Larry Hughes was the 8th pick, by the 76ers.

This was actually 1-season before I started obsessively following the NBA. It was also 6-months after the Sprewell choking incident that seemed to confirm the Warriors as a perpetual joke.

Jamison was the latest heir to Chris Webber. At that, he failed. But he did score in bunches. He gave us all hope for the future. Alas, he was often injured.

In 2000, with Jamison out for the season with an injury, the Warriors gave away the farm for Larry Hughes. Hughes was brilliant at creating shots, aweful at converting. He had the green light, shot like crazy, and made 38% (from 2).

In June 2001, the Warriors changed their draft strategy to “best available.” As a result, they chose Jason Richardson with the 5th pick. Richardson had won a NCAA Championship at Michigan State, but that was playing power forward. An athletic freak, JRich was projected to play either 2 or 3 in the NBA.

(Also on that Michigan State team: Charlie Bell, who would play his own part in Warriors history.)

The Jamison/Hughes lineup failed to materialize the following year (Larry got hurt). With both players healthy in 2001-2, Larry averaged just 12 ppg.  The chemistry did not work, so the Warriors let Hughes leave in free agency.

For sure, part of the decision to let Hughes leave is that the Warriors liked what they saw in young JRich. JRich was a two-time member of the Rookie Challenge. He won the Slam Dunk Championship both years. JRich had a memorable moment when, in the closing seconds of the 2003 Rookie Challange, game, he bounced the ball off Carlos Boozer’s forehead and then made a three-pointer before the clock ran out.

Richadson’s scoring increased every year for the first 5 years, topping out at 23.2 ppg in 2005-6.

In the middle of the 2005-6 season, the Warriors acquired Baron Davis, Baron instantly became the  locker-room leader.

JRiich was hurt in the the We Believe year, 2006-7, appearing in just 52 games, but still averaging 16 ppg (19 ppg in the playoffs).

After the We Believe season, Richardson was traded for Brandon Wright on draft day, in what Tim Kawakami believes was part of an ongoing effort by the Warriors to obtain Kevin Garnett.

Summary of my experience:

  • JRich was relentlessly positive, and pro-Warrior at a time when most around the league were down on the Warriors.
  • JRich was never as good as Warrior’s PR made him out to be. For example, in a long career, he never went to an All-Star game.
  • I always had the sense that JRich was learning on-the-job, in front of me. He came into the league as an under-size power forward, then developed himself into a 2-guard. Good for him, but the Warriors needed accomplished players in those days.
  • I always though he got screwed being traded just when the Warriors maxed-out.

Others know a lot more than me. He is, apparently, a self-made man. And an NBA good-guy. Also, his best years, for sure, were with the Warriors. And, in those grim times, he was a point of light.

Thanks for being there, Jason.