PHILADELPHIA – Josh Richardson doesn’t feel like himself yet.
The 23-year-old guard is still trying to return to form after missing eight weeks due to a partially torn MCL in his right knee. In the nine games he’s played since making his return, it’s been an up-and-down experience for Richardson.
“I’m not as explosive as I usually am or as I want to be,” Richardson said Monday. “A couple finishes that I missed that I normally make or like a couple moves that I can see but I can’t get to yet and a couple defensive things. But I think I’m getting closer.”
It was a struggle for Richardson to find a rhythm offensively over his first five games back from injury. The second-year NBA guard made 38 percent of his shots from the field and 27.8 percent of his three-point shots during that time.
“Probably three or four games in I got a little frustrated because I wasn’t playing like I wanted to,” Richardson said. “But I just had to bring myself back to reality. I didn’t get a training camp, I didn’t get a preseason, I didn’t get all the preseason practices that my teammates and the other guys in the league got. If you think about it, this is like my first regular-season game.”
Who drilled that message into Richardson’s head? Chris Bosh.
Richardson singled out Bosh as the person who has helped him most during this process. Even though Bosh has not been with the team this season as he deals with ongoing blood clot issues, they speak about once per week.
“I talk to Chris Bosh a lot,” Richardson said. “He’s kind of helped me be patient and not rush it. He’s been good.”
A few days ago it looked like Richardson had gotten over the hump and better resembled the player who made a league-best 53.3 percent of his three-point shots after the All-Star break last season. He averaged 17.3 points and made 45 percent of his shots from three-point range during the three-game stretch leading into Monday’s matchup against the 76ers.
But just as Richardson looked like he was back, he turned in his worst performance of the season in Monday’s loss to Philadelphia. He scored four points on 1-of-11 shooting in 29 minutes.
“I can’t remember one that I didn’t like or I didn’t think was open,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Richardson’s poor shooting night. “And he’s a great shooter so that means the next game he’ll probably be knocking them all down.”
That’s the confidence Richardson needs behind him right now.
“When you come back, you want to be exactly how you were when you left,” Richardson said. “But it’s hard, especially coming after kind of dominating summer league and coming right back to the NBA. It’s tough.”
The shot or the explosiveness isn’t back yet, as he’s averaging 11 points and shooting 32.6 percent from three-point range this season. Richardson is making just 32.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot opportunities (he made 45.8 percent last season) and shooting just 35 percent on drives to the basket (he made 39.1 percent last season).
Richardson feels like he’s making progress, though. Every time he gets frustrated, he just reminds himself of Bosh’s message.
“I feel like I’m getting closer. It’s just a process,” Richardson said. “You have to be patient with it. I’m not trying to rush back to get down on myself because I’m not playing like I want to. But I know there’s another player in there that can come out still so I’m just still trying to work back toward it.”