Josh Richardson knows his 3-point shooting numbers are down, but he wants you to know there’s more to his game

NEW YORK — Josh Richardson understands there’s outside pressure for him to put up better offensive numbers, but that’s not the same pressure he’s putting on himself.

“I just put pressure on myself to be a contributor to help with the team’s success,” Richardson said after Wednesday’s win over the Knicks. “I don’t really look back at what happened last year anymore.”

Josh Richardson #0 of the Miami Heat tries to get a shot off between Tobias Harris #34 and Marcus Morris #13 of the Detroit Pistons during the first half at the Palace of Auburn Hills on March 28, 2017 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

That’s because last season made Richardson look like one of the NBA’s top 3-point shooters, and that’s never really been the aspect that’s defined his game. He made just 31.8 percent of his 3-pointers during his four years at Tennessee on the college level.

But Richardson got hot down the stretch last season, making a league-best 53.3 percent of his shots from behind the 3-point line after the All-Star break as a rookie. To put that number into perspective, Golden State’s Stephen Curry hit 45.4 percent of his 3-point shots during that stretch.

“I think I put together a good month or two last year and that might have let everybody think I was just a shooter,” Richardson said. “But I can do a lot of things on the court as well as shoot.”

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After a list of injuries limited him at the start of his second NBA season, Richardson is starting to prove there’s more to his game than just 3-point shooting. He’s started the past six games at shooting guard in place of the injured Dion Waiters.

But the 6-foot-6 Richardson is playing three positions offensively — point guard, shooting guard and small forward — and also defending those three positions in most games. In certain games, he even finds himself guarding stretch-fours.

“He’s playing three positions offensively,” Spoelstra said after the Heat defeated the Knicks on Wednesday. “He can organize us, get us into offense, he can play off the ball. But more importantly, on the other end he literally guarded four positions, including the four. He was guarding [Kristaps] Porzingis at times, [Carmelo] Anthony and then all their guards. And he does it without looking at you crazy. He just takes on the challenge and works at it.”

That might be Richardson’s best trait — he works at it. Even after battling a partially torn MCL in his right knee, a sprained ankle and a sprained left foot that kept him out of 29 of the Heat’s first 57 games this season, Richardson still believes this can be a productive year for him.

Richardson’s offensive efficiency numbers are down, as he’s averaging 9.7 points on 38.6 percent shooting from the field and 30.2 percent shooting from 3-point range. But his defensive numbers are up with Richardson limiting players to 40 percent shooting this season, which is the ninth-best opponent field-goal percentage in the NBA among those who have played at least 35 games this season.

That defensive number isn’t a coincidence. Richardson, who held players to 44.9 percent shooting last season, feels like he’s a better and smarter defender this year.

“I think I just got a little better feel for the plays that will probably be coming and stuff like that,” he said. “Last year, I was just trying to weave through everything and not get killed. So, yeah I think I got a better feel.”

Don’t worry, though, Richardson feels like his 3-point shot is on its way back to form, too. He’s been battling a sore shooting wrist for most of the season since hurting it during the Heat’s loss to the Bulls on Nov. 10.

Richardson has played with the wrist taped for the past few months, but he played without the tape for the first time in a while in Tuesday’s win over the Pistons and he went without it again in Wednesday’s win over the Knicks.

He didn’t shoot well in Detroit, but he finished with 17 points and made 3-of-7 3-pointers and recorded five steals in New York.

“It feels better,” Richardson said of his right wrist Wednesday. “A lot better lately. I told myself I was going to take the tape off my wrist, so I’ve been playing without the tape this game and last game. So I feel a lot looser and I feel like my follow through is a lot better.”

That’s a good thing for Miami. The Heat need Richardson, especially with Waiters out indefinitely due a sprained left ankle.

“He’s huge for this team,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said of Richardson. “He struggled in the beginning with all of his injuries and everything. But I feel like finally he’s healthy. He’s getting back to himself. He’s a big part of this team. He can do a lot of different things.”

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